Fine warnings over 'smoking research centres'

By Matt Eley Matt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Punch taverns, Public house, Research

Licensees been warned they could face hefty fines if they follow in the path of a pub that allowed customers to light-up as part of a 'research...

Licensees been warned they could face hefty fines if they follow in the path of a pub that allowed customers to light-up as part of a 'research project'.

Kerry Fenton opened a smoke room in her pub the Cutting Edge in Worsbrough, South Yorkshire, after being told a legal loophole allows some pubs to use rooms as designated research centres.

She has since been forced to stop the scheme after being given warnings by both Barnsley Council and landlord Punch Taverns.

And Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations chief executive Tony Payne said other pubs should beware of taking part in similar projects.

"I would warn licensees against this because they could end up being fined," he said.

"This lady has had to withdraw it because of the legality and it could be considerably expensive for anyone else who does it."

However Kerry is adamant that if she had been running a freehouse she would have carried on with the scheme.

"In the two weeks that we did this we saw an 800 per cent boost in profits. I only stopped because of Punch Taverns' concerns.

"Customers absolutely loved it. People started coming to the pub again and socialising together as a community, especially the older generation."

The 'legal loophole' was spotted by Cutting Edge customer James Martin.

He points to the Smoke-free regulations exemptions​ which indicates research centres can be exempt from the ban if "tests relate to emissions from tobacco and other products used for smoking".

He now plans to sell research packs to licensees "from Land's End to John O Groats" for £150 each.

The packs include laminated signs and questionnaires for customers to complete regarding how habits have changed since the ban was introduced.

Martin told The Publican​: "People have said pubs cannot be scientific research centres but in the legislation the exemptions only refer to research centres - there is no mention of the term 'scientific'.

"Not every pub can do this. It is only those that have a separate room that can be designated as a research centre."

However a Department of Health spokesperson disagreed: "Smokefree legislation does set out an exemption for bona fide research and testing facilities that may have a designated room that is not smokefree, provided specific criteria are met.

"Simply renaming a pub would not appear to satisfy the requirements under the law."

He added it was down to council's to enforce the legislation and in this case Barnsley Council ruled that "clearly the smoking research room is in breach of non-smoking legislation."

A Punch Taverns spokeswoman said: "Punch has requested that our licensee at the Cutting Edge cease activity and we believe this has now been adhered to."

For more details about James Martin's scheme visit www.apintandafag.co.uk

Related topics: Legislation

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