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Wetherspoon's is ahead of its time

15 March 2005 by
Wetherspoon's is ahead of its time

Congratulations to JD Wetherspoon. The pub company must be applauded for taking the brave decision to ban smoking in all its pubs at least 18 months before the Government's proposals on smoking in public places kicks in.

From May this year, 60 Wetherspoon's pubs will become completely smoke-free, with the rest of its 650-strong estate converting the following summer. This is fantastic news for the pub company's 18,000 bar staff, whose health will now be protected against the dangers of second-hand smoke.

When Caterer launched its campaign to Stub out Smoking in September last year, it was to safeguard the health of the industry's 1.6 million workers. We knew from our exclusive poll of 1,000 Caterer readers that 95% of respondents felt that working in a smoky atmosphere was damaging their health.

Their beliefs are backed up by medical findings that show that breathing in people's second-hand smoke can cause cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness, meaning that every day you work in a smoky environment you increase the risk of damaging your health.

The response to our campaign was impressive, too, and several independent restaurants, pubs and hotels have since agreed to take the smoke-free option. We also received more than 1,000 completed Stub out Smoking petitions, which we delivered to Health Secretary John Reid's department, showing there was considerable support within the industry for a complete ban on smoking in the workplace.

Despite this support, Wetherspoon's decision to ban smoking is a brave one. But it could also be an inspired decision by the pub company: if, as boss Tim Martin believes, more and more smokers want to give up, then becoming smoke-free might be a valuable selling point and helpful change of image.

Already in Europe, the number of smoke-free countries is growing. This year both Italy and Bulgaria have outlawed smoking in public places, while Scotland is expected to follow suit next year. The writing is on the wall and now is surely the time to get the best deal for the health of workers in the UK hospitality industry.

So while Caterer applauds Wetherspoon's decision to go smoke-free in all its bars and pubs, we are even happier for the company's staff, whose health will be better protected in the future. Let's hope more employers in the industry follow its lead and also Stub out Smoking before the Government's ban kicks in.

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