Publicans in Ireland have warned that the smoking ban is pushing some pubs towards "devastation," according to press reports. The Irish Independent says today that the Vintners Federation of Ireland has called for smoking zones to be re-introduced to pubs as many of its 6,000 members were suffering losses.

The Federation also claimed that drinks suppliers had "confirmed a drop in sales of between 15% and 25%," the paper says.

Drinks companies in the country did not support the claims, however, and said they were waiting for longer-term trends to emerge.

A spokesman for Diageo, speaking to the newspaper, said that several more months of the ban were needed to analyse its impact. "It is a little early to identify trends," the spokesman told the Independent. "Our sales people are reporting back that some pubs are impacted but others with food businesses are noticing a pick-up in trade." Spokespeople from other drinks companies backed up Diageo's view when contacted by the newspaper.

VFI president Seamus O'Donoghue insisted feedback at its recent executive meeting showed that "many rural, family-owned pubs have been hit particularly hard since the introduction of the ban and they have serious concerns for their livelihoods and future".

"We were told non-smokers would flock to pubs but we knew this would not happen," he told the paper. "The Government must act before businesses are completely devastated."