Northern Ireland is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces on April 30.
Leading local charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland said that the smoking ban was one of the most important steps towards a healthier population in the last decade.
The charity had been campaigning for the measure for 30 years before the legislation was finally introduced on April 30, 2007.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus NI, said: “No one can be in any doubt that exposure to and inhalation of second hand tobacco smoke is a cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease. This legislation has brought and will bring significant public health benefits to present and future generations.
“There has been a high-level of compliance with the legislation right from the start. Smoke-free environments, from pubs and restaurants to offices and factories, quickly became part of everyone’s normal work and social life. In fact, younger generations cannot imagine what it was like to work and socialise in smoke-filled rooms,” he said.
“The ban has also resulted in clear shifts in public attitudes towards exposing others to second hand smoke and has increased awareness of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.
“However, challenges remain as nearly a quarter of the population here smokes and prevalence is higher in certain socio-economic groups. Many people also still smoke in their homes, which poses risks for others including children.”
Mr McElwee added: “Cancer Focus NI will continue to advocate for comprehensive tobacco control policies to be implemented, with the aim of a smoke-free Northern Ireland by 2035.
“We demand the urgent introduction of a ban on smoking in cars carrying children in line with GB and the Republic of Ireland.
“We also believe there is public support for the further development of smoke-free spaces in Northern Ireland including health service and other settings, government buildings and estates, prisons and council amenities including playgrounds and leisure facilities.
“It is now time to build on the enormous success of the workplace smoke-free legislation.”