by Ewan Turney
The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) is urging bar staff to push health secretary Patricia Hewitt for a total smoking ban.
Last week, junior health minister Caroline Flint unveiled an 11-week consultation on the Government's proposals to ban smoking in pubs that prepare and serve food by 2008. Trade bodies such as the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) condemned the plan as 'unworkable.
The TUC has set up a special website that allows individuals to send a standard letter calling for a total ban or submit their own comments. The website reminds pub and club workers that one of them dies every week from inhaling other people's smoke at work. It claims that thousands more are made ill and others are forced to leave their jobs for good because of breathing difficulties.
'For any smoking ban to be effective it must cover all workplaces, said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. 'The pub and club workers of establishments that don't serve food deserve as much protection from cancer-causing smoke as everyone else.
'Stopping smokers from puffing away at the bar will not stop bar workers suffering the effects of passive smoking, and nor will improved ventilation help much. A total ban is the only solution and I urge all pub and club workers to email in and help us change the secretary of state's mind.
However, a recent survey conducted by HPI Cardinal for AIR (Atmosphere Improves Results) covering 250 licensees and 250 staff revealed that only 8% wanted a full ban.
Of the respondents, 72% said they would be happy with a separate smoking room, 77% with a ban on smoking at the bar and 91% said that ventilation had a significant role to play in managing smoke in pubs.
Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said: 'When we surveyed our staff, 90% of them were in favour of a ban. We've banned smoking in 40 pubs and overwhelmingly even smoking staff say they prefer it. This poll strikes me as a total distortion of reality.
l The website can be found at www.tuc.org.uk/smokefreebars