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With many countries enforcing a ban on smoking in public places, is it a matter of time before the UK follows suit? Jackie Annett reports.Results set...

With many countries enforcing a ban on smoking in public places, is it a matter of time before the UK follows suit? Jackie Annett reports.

Results set to be published any day are expected to prove the pub trade has met the minimum 50 per cent compliance levels of the industry's Smoking Charter.

But while the Charter Group is in discussions with the Department of Health, the argument for government intervention to ban smoking in pubs is gaining momentum.

Last month a Labour MP won the right to introduce a bill to ban smoking in all public places that serve food, including pubs.

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, gained support from 115 MPs to put forward the bill to ban smoking because of the dangers of passive smoking.

Now it is rumoured that he is looking at making an amendment to the new Licensing Bill - but the trade is hoping that a lack of Parliamentary time will mean that consideration of the proposed amendment is postponed.

The news was greeted with a record number of comments on thePublican.com.

But the trade is adamant that the Public Places Charter, which promotes self-regulation through the use of signage, good ventilation and, where possible, no-smoking areas, is working.

Oliver Griffiths from Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR), said: "Hopefully this should all be wrapped up by the summer and the trade will know whether the government intends to legislate.

"The UK is not the only country in the world that doesn't have a smoking ban.

"Countries like Spain, Belgium and Holland also allow smoking. But we should be worried. Mr Thomas is an extremely good campaigner and I shouldn't imagine he'll let it drop."

Licensees say an outright smoking ban could lead to a huge drop in trade and a loss of jobs.

The Publican's Market Report 2002, a survey of 750 publicans, showed that on average licensees thought they would lose around 39 per cent of custom if smoking is banned.

And they have every reason to worry. A ban on smoking in bars in New York has so far led to a dramatic drop in custom and bar owners are threatening to sue the state as a result, while others are considering shutting down lottery ticket sales for a month in protest.

But in other countries a smoking ban hasn't been so catastrophic. Here we take a look at what's happened so far in New York, Australia, California, Ireland, Norway, Wales and Scotland.

New York

A complete smoking ban in pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs in New York has led to a number of problems. Bar owners have complained that profits have plummeted and, according to media reports, Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, is considering suing the state.

According to the Business Review, Mr Wexler is waiting for official notification from his board to initiate a lawsuit in the next couple of months.

Residents aren't happy either. They say forcing revellers to leave bars and clubs to smoke means that the streets are more noisy - especially in the early hours of the morning.

But the ban has had a more severe consequence. Manhattan nightclub doorman Dana Blake was stabbed to death after he tried to enforce New York's tough new anti-smoking law, just a couple of weeks after it was introduced.

He was stabbed after asking one of two brothers in the club to put out a cigarette and died of his injuries.


Smoking is banned in certain states in Australia. Pubs, bars and clubs in New South Wales have been told that from July they will have to set up a no-smoking area but they have not been told how big it should be.

Licensees will have six months to implement the new law, which will come into force fully in January next year.

Licensees will also be required to enforce smoking bans at the bar. The country has imposed bans after a number of complaints about passive smoking from employees. In South Australia, 13 people have brought worker's compensation claims since 1995.

In May 2001 an Australian barworker was awarded £170,000 damages for the effects of passive smoking. Marlene Sharp gave up her 11-year job as a barmaid in an Australian drinking club after she developed cancer of the larynx and was no longer able to work.


The entire state of California has been smoke-free since 1994.

But at first the new law was very difficult to implement. According to newspaper reports many smokers ignored the legislation and officials continue to say it is hard to enforce.

Fire officials have said the law is vague, and only requires bar owners to post "no smoking" signs at all entrances and make a "reasonable effort" to tell patrons they can no longer smoke.

But anti-smoking organisations claim that, contrary to popular belief, sales in Californian restaurants have increased at a rate of four to eight percent annually.


Ireland plans to outlaw tobacco smoking in bars, restaurants, hotels, and all other workplaces from January next year.

But the Vintners Federation of Ireland said a total ban would be unworkable and has called for a more realistic solution. Many fear that if the ban is successful it could be implemented in the UK.


Norway is set to become the first country in the world to ban smoking in all indoor public places, including bars. The bill proposed by the Norwegian government is likely to be enforced from early 2004.

The Norwegian proposals came about after heavy pressure from restaurant workers' unions.

Wales and Scotland

Smoking in pubs and bars in Wales could be banned after members of the Welsh Assembly from all political parties passed a motion by 39 votes to 10 calling on the UK government to give it powers to impose a ban on smoking in all public places.

Alun Pugh, the assembly member for Clwyd West, put forward the motion because of concerns over health, in particular, over children inhaling smoke in public places.

In Wales alone, publicans stand to lose an average of 34 per cent of their trade as a result of smoking bans, according to The Publican Market Report 2002.

In Scotland, MSP Kenny Gibson has said he is ploughing ahead with a private member's bill to ban smoking in all public places where food is served.

But licensees are hoping the government will not enforce a new law if pubs sign up to the voluntary Charter.

Related articles:

Smoking ban could be in new bill (24 April 2003)

MP bids to ban smoking in venues that sell food (17 April 2003)

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