Laws banning smoking in public places gave many people the incentive they needed to finally give up.
Rising prices and shocking health warnings had failed to persuade many smokers to quit.
But when a night at the pub began to be interrupted by a stint shivering outside in the cold every time they wanted a fag, many decided the habit was no longer much fun.
On March 29, 2004, the Irish Republic became the first European country to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces. It later reported a 17% fall in cigarette sales, an 83% reduction in air pollution in pubs and restaurants and an 80% fall in airborne carcinogens which are thought to cause cancer.
Other countries followed, including Norway, New Zealand and Italy.
The ban spread to Scotland on March 26, 2006 when First Minister Jack McConnell said: "In the years ahead, people will look back on today as the day that Scotland took the largest single step to improve its health for generations."
Smokers' rights group Forest said the ban would stigmatise and ghettoise smokers even further and lead to more children being exposed to smoking while the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said it feared the ban would lead to pub closures.
A year later the Scottish Executive said there had been more than 46,000 attempts to quit smoking.
The smoking ban was introduced in Wales on April 2, 2007 with ministers saying the early introduction - three months before England - could save an additional 100 lives.
Northern Ireland was the next, on April 30, 2007.
The ban began in England on July 1, 2007 with Health Secretary Alan Johnson saying: "A smoke-free country will improve the health of thousands of people, reduce the temptation to smoke and encourage smokers to quit."