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Minister fails to get tougher on smoking

23 June 2005
Minister fails to get tougher on smoking

The health of hospitality workers will continue to be put at risk after the Government failed to implement a complete ban on smoking in public places this week.

Media speculation had tipped the Government to toughen its stance on smoking and announce a full ban to follow Scotland's lead.

But at the launch of a three-month consultation on Monday (20 June) on how the Health Improvement and Protection Bill will work, public health minister Caroline Flint ruled out a change in policy.

Although the Government conceded a full ban would be best to protect people's health and reduce the 120,000 smoking-related deaths a year in England, it believes the public doesn't want one. "We're trying to marry up health needs with public opinion, and our research shows only 20% of the population favour an outright ban," said Flint.

But Professor Alex Markman, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "Second-hand smoke poses a serious danger to health, and all workers deserve to be protected from it."

The announcement means the Government remains on course to outlaw smoking in all pubs serving food by 2009.

Despite Flint's claims that the legislation would stop smoking in the majority of the country's pubs, research by the British Medical Association found the number of pubs not currently offering food greatly exceeded official estimates of 10-30%.

Another assertion - that food is too important to ditch - has been proved untrue by operators, who admit that keeping more profitable drinking-smokers may make better business sense.

"Our food sales range from 0% to 65% of turnover, and I think most pub operators would be the same," said Greene King's Adam Collett.

The British Beer & Pub Association fears a smoking ban based on food could damage small businesses. A spokesman said: "We remain convinced a link with food is the wrong way to tackle the issue."

Smoking facts

  • An enclosed area constitutes a space that is 70% or more closed in.

  • Environmental health officers will police tha ban and have powers to enter premises under the law.

  • Operators that allow smoking on their premises will be fined £200.

  • Customers who break the law will be fined £50.

  • Hotel rooms are exempt from the new rules.

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