Ted Tuppen, boss of Britain's second biggest pub operator Enterprise Inns, has slammed the Government's handling of smoking legislation.
The Government's decision to allow a free vote on the issue of smoking in public places means a total ban on smoking in pubs is now expected.
Initially it looked as if the Government would allow smoking to continue in pubs that mainly served drink.
But private members' clubs, which have around 20,000 outlets in the UK, could still be exempt.
Tuppen described the situation as a muddle and called for a ban across the board.
"Any regulations must be clear, workable and fair to all operators, employees and consumers and our strong preference remains the provision of clearly defined and segregated smoking rooms, allowing choice for smokers and non-smokers alike, whilst providing proper protection for employees."
Tuppen predicted the smoking ban would lead to pub closures, particularly smaller, more marginal venues that Enterprise typically sells off.
Enterprise was the biggest pub owner in the UK until the acquisition of Spirit by Punch at the end of last year.
By Andrew Sangster
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