A cross-party group of peers has tabled an amendment to the Business and Planning Bill, proposing that pavement licences should only be granted to venues by a local authority if smoking is prohibited.
The Bill is in the process of passing through Parliament and will be reviewed by MPs next week, who will decide whether to accept any amendments or not.
The coronavirus crisis has placed a greater emphasis on dining and drinking outside, with current guidance that up to six different households can socialise together outside if they stay socially distanced.
However, anti-smoking campaigners have raised concerns that this ‘al-fresco revolution’ will mean more individuals are at risk of second-hand smoke.
Liberal Democrat Baroness Northover, who is part of the coalition pushing for a change, told the i newspaper: “As a result of the pandemic, more and more people are spending time with friends, family and loved ones outside. We must ensure these new pavement areas can be enjoyed by all.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said pubs are well-versed in providing outdoor smoking spaces for customers, following the ban on smoking inside pubs in 2007.
She added: “At present, with the future of so many businesses and jobs still hanging in the balance, additional restrictions are the last thing we need.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, was among the critics of the push from peers. He said: "In the wake of lockdown, pubs, restaurants and cafes already face huge challenges.
"This is the worst possible time to add to their burden by imposing further regulations that could discourage a lot of smokers from returning."
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the Government had no plans to ban outdoor smoking despite the calls.
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We are helping our pubs, cafes and restaurants safely reopen and securing jobs by making it quicker, easier and cheaper to operate outside. The Government’s priority is protecting public health against the transmission of the Covid virus, while ensuring the venues can remain open and be economically sustainable."
They added: "Excessive regulation will lead to pub closures and job losses. Smokers should exercise public responsibility and be considerate, and premises are able to set their own rules to reflect customer wishes.”
Readers of The Morning Advertiser expressed their views against the sentiment earlier this year, when the issue was raised by an MP writing to the Department of Health. Several said they were already operating some smoke-free areas to cater for non-smokers in addition to people who did want to smoke outside their site.
Trade bodies have previously said they believe a blanket ban from central Government would be unlikely.