One third of BII-member licensees will close their pubs if there is a total smoking ban, a new survey reveals.
It comes as a total smoking ban in 2007 becomes increasingly likely after Prime Minister Tony Blair gave MPs a free vote on the issue last week.
A study of 1,500 members
of the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) and the Feder-ation of Licensed Victuallers Associations found 35% of hosts would quit the business.
They fear the restrictions would lead to a sharp fall in trade.
BII chief executive John McNamara said the results
are "hardly surprising" because 25% of licensees run pubs turning over less than £120,000.
"This makes them very vulnerable to any downturn in trade," added McNamara.
"As most of our members' pubs have more than half of their customers as smokers, a smoking ban would have a massive effect."
Now they have been granted a free vote, as many as 70 Labour MPs are expected to vote for a total ban, including Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.
The likely outcome of the free vote, given the stance that opposition members are expected to take, is that the total ban will become a reality.
At the time of going to press, 92 MPs, including 56 Labour members, had signed the early day motion calling for a complete ban.
This would include pubs that don't serve food as well as private members' clubs.
The Commons health select committee has also tabled
an amendment to the Health Bill calling for an outright ban, including members' clubs.
When asked whether a total ban on smoking in pubs is the likely outcome, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Nick Bish said: "It appears to be." He said he would prefer a complete ban to be a level playing field and include private members' clubs. "But it is unknown how the final Health Bill will turn out," he added.
The bill is likely to get its third reading in the Commons at the end of this month.