Smoking ban prompts fears of thousands of pub closures

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Thousands of pubs could be forced to close under the government's botched plans for a smoking ban.Trade leaders are already warning of the...

Thousands of pubs could be forced to close under the government's botched plans for a smoking ban.

Trade leaders are already warning of the "disastrous consequences" of the move to ban smoking in pubs serving food, which could now take place as early as 2007.

The Department of Health is due to publish its health bill today after a week of in-fighting in the Cabinet.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt (pictured)​ has stuck to Labour's original manifesto pledge that pubs serving food will be smoke-free and members' clubs will be exempt, while non-food pubs will be free to choose.

But even in non-food pubs, smokers could be pushed into "discrete smoking areas" if smoke is likely to reach the bar.

Under the proposals, smoking at the bar will be prohibited in all pubs.

The Welsh Assembly is to be given the power to set its own ban, and is likely to bring in blanket action from April 2007.

Ms Hewitt said: "I believe this Bill will be very widely welcomed as a major step forward in protecting people from second-hand smoke."

But according to The Publican's new Food Report survey (to be published next month) as many as one in five pubs currently serving food are planning to shut their kitchens.

Many others could be forced to close if they are unable to compete with the nation's 22,000 private members' clubs.

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Nick Bish, who led the industry's Charter Group smoking initiative, said: "I regret enormously that clubs will be exempt.

"I don't see the logic and fairness of it - it's for political reasons. It could have disastrous consequences for community pubs in working class areas."

Ted Tuppen, chief executive of the UK's largest pub company Enterprise Inns, described the proposals as a "total shambles".

"They do good for no-one," he said.

"Our position remains that well-run pubs will continue to prosper, but there will be a serious impact on marginal outlets."

Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers' Associations, said exempting clubs would put pubs at a serious disadvantage.

He said: "There are small pubs which serve the community much better than private members' clubs and they are being treated unfairly.

"I can't see why pubs that serve food cannot have a smoking room. We will be lobbying MPs to get fair play and common sense."

Mark Hastings, director of communications for the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "Excluding clubs is unacceptable. With 22,000 clubs in the UK they are competing head to head with pubs."

Government proposals

  • Pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free - probably from 2007
  • Restaurants will be smoke-free
  • Membership clubs will be exempt
  • 'Non-food' pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking, or be smoke-free
  • Smoking in the bar area will be prohibited everywhere, with further consultation to be carried out on the possibility of "discrete smoking rooms or areas to protect staff"
  • The policy will be monitored and reviewed after three years.

Related topics Legislation

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