Some pubs in Northern Ireland will be forced to wait for up two years to prepare their premises for the smoking ban, even though it comes into effect on 30 April, industry leaders have warned.
The province will next week become the third UK region to introduce a ban on smoking in public places, following in the footsteps of Wales (2 April) and Scotland (26 March). The Republic of Ireland brought in a ban in 2004.
Nicola Carruthers, chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade, said that, while it was expected that Northern Ireland would have a smooth transition, the way the legislation had been laid out was "absolutely woeful".
"On 9 March the final legislation came through and, with the ban implemented on 30 April, there is not enough time to work through Northern Ireland's administrative departments]," she said.
"It could take 12-18 months to get planning permission through, and then you have the construction. Outdoor smoking sites could be two years away for some licensees. An awful lot of people are trying to get an area without planning permission," Carruthers added.
By Christopher Walton
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