Pubs cater for non-smoking customers far better than restaurants, a survey by the Consumers' Association has revealed.
Researchers for the association visited 50 pubs and restaurants to assess their smoke-free areas and attitude towards non-smokers.
While the researchers found it took two attempts, on average, to book a non-smoking table in a restaurant, they discovered it was easy to find non-smoking areas in pubs.
Booking a non-smoking table also proved difficult in restaurants as many did not ask whether the customer would prefer to sit in a smoking or non-smoking area. Pubs, on the other hand, were most likely to enquire about where a customer wanted to sit and had the best signs inside so the non-smoking areas were easily identified.
Signage outside pubs, however, was not so good. Just one pub out of the 13 visited by researchers displayed the industry's Public Places Charter on Smoking signs and one displayed its own sign outside.
But pubs were better at separating the smoking and non-smoking areas and researchers found the non-smoking parts of the pubs were genuinely smoke free, which means the pubs visited are already complying with most of the charter but do not have the signage to make them fully charter-compliant.
One of the criticisms levelled at restaurants by researchers was the number of smoking tables was greater than the number of non-smoking tables even though just one in three British people smoke.
Researchers found pubs were more likely to allocate a greater number of tables to non-smokers.
But Clive Bates, director of the pressure group Action on Smoking and Health, said he thought provisions for non-smokers was still unsatisfactory.
"The amount of smoke-free space is not proportional to the number of non-smokers. The level of dissatisfaction is not properly understood by the proprietors, basically because people are suffering in silence."
Licensees are being urged to sign up to the charter as soon as possible to lessen the risk of the Government regulating over smoking. Signage can be ordered from Atmosphere Improves Results on 020 7482 0602 or downloaded from the website at www.airinitiative.com.
For more information on how to comply take a look at Smoke signals.
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