Three leading bar and restaurant operators have called for a blanket smoking ban to end the current legal confusion.
Speaking at the Catering Forum on the Oriana cruise ship last week, La Tasca chief executive James Horler, Living Ventures managing director Tim Bacon and Milk & Honey bar owner Jonathan Downey said a complete ban would avoid the operational headache of a partial limit on smoking.
Their pleas followed last week's announcement by Health Minister Caroline Flint, who ruled out speculation that the Government would opt for an outright ban.
"The law is stupid and irrational," said Downey, "and I can't believe it'll make it on to the statute books."
Horler said the "level playing field" in Scotland was the best way forward. "I'm delighted it's a blanket ban in Scotland, and I think business will increase as a result, although it might take a while."
He added that he was surprised when JD Wetherspoon announced a ban in all of its pubs by May 2006. "I thought it was totally bonkers. I wouldn't lead, but would quite happily follow."
Bacon agreed, but believes the law as proposed will never come in anyway. "I can't wait for a blanket ban. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see it will happen - I think the Government is just softening us up."