GMB backs calls by pub staff for a total block on smoking in pubs
Barstaff represented by one of Britain's biggest unions have voted to lobby the Government for a total ban on smoking in pubs.
The decision was made by delegates at the GMB's congress last week, making it the union's official policy to support a total smoking ban in pubs, bars, clubs, shops, hotels, restaurants and casinos.
Industry leaders fear the radical resolution will add weight to anti-smoking groups calling for tougher smoking regulations in Britain's pubs.
The GMB is one of the most powerful unions in the UK and is affiliated to the Labour Party.
It is feared it could now use its political influence to persuade ministers to back a smoking ban.
Christopher McLaughlan, from the GMB's London region, which proposed the motion, said: "We will use all the lobbying force we have to call for a ban. The legislation is there anyway because there is already a duty of care on the employer to provide a safe working environment for staff."
The industry has been attempting to self-regulate with its voluntary Public Places Charter on Smoking, which recommends the use of signage, ventilation and no-smoking areas, in order to avoid tougher legislation but so far only about 10 per cent of licensees have adopted the charter.
Campaigners say self-regulation is not working and are pushing for the introduction of an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) on smoking, which would have the force of law. It would ban smoking at the bar, require licensees to provide "adequate ventilation" for staff and could cost pubs thousands of pounds to implement.
The GMB has 700,000 members, of which 35,000 work in food and drink retail. Its leaders have said they will be actively lobbying for the immediate enforcement of the ACoP in the first instance.
The first successful lawsuit was brought earlier this year against a licensee in Australia by a member of barstaff who claimed the smoky atmosphere had damaged her health. It is feared the GMB's decision will alert staff in the UK to the issue, prompting similar claims.
Mr McLaughlan said: "Evidence about passive smoking is being gathered and for what it's going to cost the industry in terms of claims, lawsuits and compensation, licensees would be better off paying out for ventilation in the short term."
Oliver Griffiths, spokesman for the Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR) initiative, said the union's decision would "play strongly to the case for the ACoP".
He added: "It certainly adds weight to those campaigning for a smoking ban, because now the employees are voting for it. It's a worrying development."
Simon Clark, spokesman for smokers' rights group Forest, said: "We support more smoke-free areas and better ventilation but proprietors must be allowed to chose a policy on smoking that best suits their needs. No one is forced to work in a smoky pub."
Time is beginning to run out for the trade to comply with the voluntary charter on smoking. Our article Smoke signalsgets to the heart of the issue.