Hewitt at odds with Health over smoking

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by Claire Hu Opponents of a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants have received a boost from the Department of Health which has insisted such a move...

by Claire Hu Opponents of a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants have received a boost from the Department of Health which has insisted such a move would not be "justified". The announcement came as the Charter Group on Smoking in Public Places met with health policy makers and submitted a report which examines how self-regulation in the trade is working so far. The survey, which looks at how many pub and restaurants are compliant with the Charter and what action they have taken to improve ventilation, is currently being assessed by the Department of Health. The department spoke out in defence of self-regulation after Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt revealed moves to ban smoking in places serving food ­ put forward by Labour MP Gareth Thomas ­ were being seriously considered. She told the MP: "The Health Secretary is looking very carefully at the proposal you have made." Hewitt said she "hugely welcomed" the idea of being able to visit smoke-free restaurants. But a department spokesman said: "We do not think a universal ban on smoking in all public places is justified while we can make fast and substantial progress in partnership with the industry. We think this is an important issue and want to work with business and others to achieve a real change." Nick Bish, chairman of the charter group of licensed trade associations, which supports self-regulation, said he was waiting for the department to read and assess its report. He said: "That is a very encouraging statement, but it is subject to them validating the assessment of how pubs have done. I look forward to them believing the figures." Bish added: "We are proud of our achievements to date, and look forward to working with the DoH and other stakeholders to provide the best deal for staff and customers.

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