Italy is celebrating the first anniversary of the smoking ban in public places. Going beyond initial (legitimate) disagreement on the desirability of the ban, the government enacted a set of measures which proved to be enormously successfull. Beside first hand experience of the actual improvements, now evidence is provided as to the positive effects of the ban (read here for a report).
Smoking not only harms people who smoke, but also people who do not smoke, as for example bar tenders or other clients. The prevention of the harm to others is a good reason enough for accepting the liberal nature of such a measure (some argue that a ban is a paternalist intervention, not justified within the paradigms of a liberal state).
As far as institutional solutions are concerned, I think that Italian law is probably the best law on this topic; it provides the possibility of creating separate rooms for smokers. This goes with few conditions: effective separation and appropriate ventilation systems. Yet, the main aim is limit the incentives for smokers to smoke in public, and possibly to smoke in generally.
One year after, cigarettes sale has decreased of 5.7%. This simple figure tells much more than any other word.
It is a pity that in other countries, such as England, leaders are not brave enough to do the right thing. Tony Blair is alerted: if he's not even able to carry forward such a simple, but so beneficial, reform, then it means that his time has gone.