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Plans for British smoking ban

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The government has today published its White Paper on public health in Britain, including the blueprint of a smoking ban, which would outlaw smoking in up to 90 per cent of the UK’s pubs, cafés and restaurants by 2008.

The paper was presented by health secretary John Reid at the House of Commons and only falls short of a blanket ban by allowing pubs which do not offer food to decide for themselves if they wish to allow smoking or not.

Reid said: “We need to step up the action we are taking across government and throughout society to tackle the causes of ill health and reduce inequalities.

“While we respect individuals’ rights to make their own choices, we need to respond to public concern that some people’s choices can cause a nuisance and have a damaging impact on other people’s health.”

Although the paper emphasises the importance of offering people advice and information of the dangers of smoking, it is seen to tackle the issue of smoking in public with more gusto than expected.

According to the paper, all enclosed public places and workplaces will be made smoke free by the end of 2007, with licensed premises receiving a one-year reprieve – smoking will be banned in all restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs which offer food by the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, pubs that only offer snacks – such as crisps – rather than food prepared onsite will be free to choose whether to allow their customers to smoke or not. Smoking at the bar area will be outlawed in all pubs.

The British Medical Association (BMA) was quick to congratulate the government’s efforts to improve public health but was concerned that the proposals left some people still vulnerable for the effects of passive smoking.

BMA chair, James Johnson, said: “I recognise that John Reid has certainly gone a long way on tobacco but he has wasted an opportunity by not introducing a complete ban on smoking in enclosed places.

“It makes no sense to allow smoking in some pubs – what about the health and live of employees who work in them? By not introducing a complete ban, some pubs may find loopholes in the law to allow smoking.”

According to the government’s Opinion Leader Research (OLR), 56 per cent of people polled supported restricting smoking in the pubs with 20 per cent wanting a total smoking ban.

Both the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) voiced their concerns over the large-scale ban, claiming that small, community pubs would be worst hit by the proposals.

Mike Benner, chief executive of CAMRA, said: “While it’s clear that smoke in pubs needs to be managed, these proposals threaten to split the pub trade, creating polished smoke-free eateries for the middle class and smoking dens for everyone else.

“The problem is that committed smokers may well switch their custom to small community pubs which don’t serve prepared hot food and the resulting fug may alienate other parts of the local community – no one enjoys sitting in a smoky room.

“It is quite possible that small community pubs, which rely on beer sales rather than food sales, will tear up their menus to make sure their smoking regulars are not driven away.”

The proposals will now enter a period of consultation before coming back for its second reading at the lower house. Details: www.dh.gov.uk

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The government has today published its White Paper on public health in Britain, including the blueprint of a smoking ban, which would outlaw smoking in up to 90 per cent of the UK’s pubs, cafés and restaurants by 2008.
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