Five councils have banned smoking outside pub pavements, including Newcastle City Council, Manchester City Council, Durham County Council, Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council.
What’s more, Oxfordshire County Council is considering making hospitality outdoor seating “100% smoke free” as part of ambitions to make the country smoke free by 2025.
UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the policies were unfair given the tough financial situations faced by many venues because of the pandemic.
She said: “This damaging decision would be a hugely disproportionate step and will inevitably deter customers from pubs, bars and restaurants - businesses that already find themselves in a very fragile state following months of closure and over a year of severely disrupted trading.
Burden on staff
“It would impose a burden on our hardworking staff, who can well do without the risk of conflict that could arise when challenging customers breaching the rule, especially now, when they are already coping with the extra burden of Covid regulations and maintaining social distancing," Nicholls added.
“Venues already cater for non-smokers and smokers alike, so making people walk 10 metres away from a venue, simply displacing the smoke, is illogical.”
Under the Business and Planning Act 2020, pubs must offer a smoke-free space for customers to drink but councils can also justify banning smoking as a licence condition.
Operator Matthew Meeson runs the Mason Arms in Oxford said his pub experienced its “toughest trading period to date” following the indoor smoking ban.
He said: “Lots of customers stayed away and it took a long time for the business (and trade) to adapt. Some customers never came back.”
“The majority of our customers are non smokers now but we still have quite a few who enjoy a cigarette, especially with a beer.
“Having said this I think the indoor ban has been brilliant for trade in the long run though and encouraged a whole new range of customers.”
A smoking ban would be “yet another stumbling block for many small pubs,” the operator added.
Meeson said: “The area where our customers gather to smoke is a very sociable place and brings people together from different groups when they pop out for a cigarette.
“Personally I would be very disappointed to see a blanket ban on smoking as I believe customers should be able to enjoy a cigarette with their drink outdoors in a well ventilated area should they choose to.”
Not worth operating
The Morning Advertiser’s readers said smoke free policies could hit some venues hard but others said they could see the public health benefits to the proposals, when asked on social media.
One licensee said a smoking ban should not be forced on terraced style venues with no outdoor floor space.
“If it’s a standalone where there is plenty of space for smokers to go other than the front door/pavement then yes, enforce it,” they added.
“My bar doesn't have a garden, the only space we have is outside the front of the building,” one operator wrote on Facebook. “We use barriers so people can still get past the ‘smoking area’ if we lost that, we would lose so much business it wouldn't be worth staying open.”