Industry leaders are anxiously awaiting a major decision this week which could have a dramatic affect on the law on smoking in pubs.
The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) is set to decide tomorrow (September 5) whether to recommend that ministers adopt the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), drawn up this year to protect workers' health.
The Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR) initiative, supported by The Publican Newspaper, says the ACoP would force many smaller pubs to install facilities they could not afford, but consumer groups disagree.
It fully expects the HSC to make the recommendation, but there is doubt that ministers will adopt the code.
Pub operators prefer the voluntary charter on smoking in pubs, which recommends the use of ventilation, no-smoking areas and air-cleaners.
Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said he opposed the ACoP because he felt that the hospitality industry, where workers are placed in the same environment as customers, should be given special consideration.
But Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health, said: "All the ACoP says is that businesses must do what they reasonably can. There's no question of anyone going out of business."
If the HSC passes the ACoP to ministers, the measure will go before a red tape panel which has the power to reject new laws.