Smaller pubs will go out of business when the Irish government brings in its proposed ban on smoking in bars, the head of a leading UK drinks trade organisation said on Friday.

Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, and chairman of the drinks industry’s Charter Group on smoking, said: "The Irish move is certain to cause widespread hardship there. You can’t just go from no controls at all to a total ban. There will be all sorts of problems with civil disobedience, non-enforcement and smaller pubs going out of business.

Micheal Martin, Ireland’s health minister, announcing the proposed ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants, clubs, hotels and all other workplaces from 1 January next year, said: "Current ventilation technologies are inadequate to give workers full protection from the hazards of tobacco smoke. Exposure can best be controlled by banning smoking in all places of work.

"Following a consultation period, I intend to introduce these regulations on 1 January 2004."

Tadg O'Sullivan, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, said: "We believe a total ban on smoking is an over-reaction and clean air solutions provide a workable alternative.

"We look forward to meeting with the minister at the earliest opportunity to discuss the viability of his proposals and hope that we can come to a realistic and workable solution that will protect the health and safety of staff and customers."

The Irish Hotels Federation welcomed the ban, but expressed concerns over whether hoteliers would be expected to enforce it.

Nick Bish of the Charter Group said: "In the UK we have worked with the Department of Health to develop a far more sensible route to getting rid of the smoke whereby pubs should define their smoking policy, announce their policy signs on the outside so customers can make an informed choice, and all the time operators progressively improve their facilities.

The charter, which is supported by the ALMR, the British Beer and Pubs Association, the Restaurant Association, the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, the British Hospitality Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, Business in Sport and Leisure and the Club Institute Union, among others, has now been in place since 1999. It is being formally assessed by the industry and the Department of Health in the next few weeks. Its smoking policy signs can now be found in over half of all pubs and industry leaders estimate that about one third of all pubs have non-smoking areas.