Just days after Caterer delivered more than 1,000 completed Stub out Smoking petitions to the Department of Health, health secretary John Reid has announced radical plans to introduce a ban on smoking in the majority of restaurants, bars and pubs in England by 2008. Early signs are that Wales will follow suit.
The content of Choosing Health, the Government's White Paper on improving public health in England, was as surprising as it was welcome.
Reid declared his intention to "shift the balance significantly in favour of smoke-free environments". Specifically, he proposed a total ban on smoking in restaurants, and in all pubs and bars preparing and serving food. Pubs and bars not preparing and serving food will remain free to choose whether to allow smoking or not, he said, as will private members' clubs. The ban will extend to the bar areas of all licensed premises.
These measures are excellent news for hospitality professionals, many of whom should now be spared the damaging effects of passive smoking once legislation is passed. But they stop short of the outright ban imposed by the Scottish Executive earlier this month.
For the past three months, Caterer has campaigned for a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace. We have done so on the basis of exclusive reader research, which told us that 95% of you believe working in a smoke-filled environment is damaging your health.
Thousands of you have supported our stance by completing and returning our petition. Together we've played our part in shaping a healthier future for England's hospitality professionals.
But our work remains unfinished. The Department of Health estimates that up to 90% of England's bars could be non-smoking by 2008. What of the people employed in the 10% of establishments that will continue to allow smoking? Is their good health deemed by the Government to be of secondary importance?
Reid's proposals now enter a lengthy consultation period. We're committed to tracking this consultation process, to presenting to Government the views of our readers, and to lending our voice to any call for the proposed ban to be extended to all public places.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who supported our Stub out Smoking campaign.