by Phil Pemberton Liverpool looks likely to be the first British city to ban smoking in public places in a bid to portray a positive image before its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. A campaign group called Smoke Free Liverpool, which includes representatives of the city's primary care trusts, councillors and businesses, has been created to persuade town hall bosses to use existing laws to ban smoking in pubs, clubs, restaurants and offices. The group hopes to use health-and-safety regulations to impose the ban. Richard Oglethorpe, Liver-pool's councillor for the environment, said: "I can't say that this is council policy yet, but it is something which I am personally keen to see happen." Meanwhile, an on-line survey conducted by the London Health Commission (LHC) claimed that four out of five Londoners wanted smoking banned in all public places. More than 34,000 people responded to the Smoke Debate poll which showed 78% wanted a ban in all enclosed public places and 43% desired smoke-free pubs and clubs. However, the survey was criticised by Nick Bish, chairman of the Charter Group, which represents 15 hospitality trade associations. He argued that the self-regulating charter had been successful in achieving smoke-free zones and better ventilation. "Even though the results from such a survey are totally unscientific, it's an excellent way of recognising the public's appetite for smoke-free environments. The Charter is driving forward the investment in cleaner air for staff and customers in pubs," he said. Reading the smoke signals Londoners' Smoke Debate poll* 78% ban in all enclosed spaces 74% wanted workplaces smoke free 64% restaurant ban 43% ban in pubs and clubs *34,446 Londoners responded to the internet poll conducted by the London Health Commission No city-wide ban' Brookes The Head of Steam pub in Liverpool has reacted to the anti-smoking sentiment within the city's council by increasing its no-smoking area to three out of its five bars. However, Tony Brookes, the managing director of the six-strong chain, does not want to see a city-wide ban. "You have to look at the example of New York where a ban has reduced business in bars," he said. "Although I am a fervent anti-smoker, a complete ban would not be good news. In terms of my own pubs, I am keen to continue to provide no-smoking areas and good ventilation." The Liverpool Head of Steam, situated near Lime Street Station, will see 5,000sq ft become smoke-free and manager Rob McNeill believes the move will be closely watched by other bar operators in the city. "Other pubs and bars will be interested to see if we suffer a drop in business with the increased smoke-free area," he said.