- Title: UK: Smoking to be banned in English public places from July 1
- Date: 28th June 2007
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE) (REUTERS) SIGN READING 'NO SMOKING'
- Embargoed: 13th July 2007 13:00
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA4QKWQWD6OWDN50R12X0YOHQS8
- Story Text: Smoking is to be banned from July 1 in public places in England -- falling into line with Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Viaduct Tavern in London's business district, the City, has been serving drinks to customers since 1869. For over a century, this pub has been host to patrons who have enjoyed a drink and a cigarette while admiring the original architectural features of a specially registered building. But part of the Tavern's tradition is fast coming to an end. On Sunday, July 1, England will go smoke free. From that date onwards, it will be against the law to smoke in nearly all enclosed public places, work places and public and work vehicles. Indoor smoking rooms, common in many workplaces, will also have to close and smokers will have to go outside.
The ban follows similar restrictions already introduced in the past two years in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Failure to comply with the new law will be a criminal offence, with penalties ranging between 50 pounds (100 U.S. dollars)for individuals to 2,500 pounds (5,000 U.S. dollars) for businesses which fail to enforce the ban.
The Department of Health says the new law is being introduced to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
The department has recently launched a campaign to bring the smoking ban to the public awareness. The far-reaching campaign has included banners on public transport and advertisements on television, radio and the internet.
Martin Dockrell is policy and campaign manager for ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), a campaigning public health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco and he has welcomed the ban.
"When I thought it was just about comfort, I wasn't convinced. When I came to understand it was a serious health issue, that's when I came on board. I think that's generally true of the population, so that when it came to understand that it wasn't about your clothes smelling, but it was about the fact that there were 10,000 people who die every year from second hand smoking in the U.K, 600 people who die from second hand smoke exposure at work, then people thought well for that, for 600 lives I am willing to smoke outdoors," Dockrell told Reuters.
The United Kingdom is not the first country in Europe to ban smoking in public places. Other countries such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland have done the same in recent years. France has banned smoking in most public places since February and will expand the ban to bars, restaurants, hotels and night clubs in January 2008.
London's pubs -- with their colourful signs, unique names and large range of alcoholic drinks -- have been among the city's main features and tourist attractions for many years. Like other businesses across England, pubs have been preparing for the ban since the government outlined its plans two years ago. The preparations have included setting up or expanding open air spaces, placing 'no smoking' signs in the premises and in some cases targetting different groups of customers.
"We've come up with a new menu, we put it in place already in the last couple of months or so, and that's going very very well so we are attracting more people who may want to come and eat into the pub rather than smoke in the pub," said Sidonie Ross, pub manager at the Viaduct Tavern.
Twenty-five percent of the adult population in the UK smokes, according to the charity Cancer Research UK. Out of them, 75 percent say they would like to quit the habit.
"I definitely think it should go ahead. Definitely. Maybe the pubs will smell a lot better. And, plus, it will probably stop me from smoking so much, because when you have a few drinks you smoke more cigarettes," said student Kelly Roe while enjoying a cigarette at the Viaduct Tavern.
But the ban is not welcomed by everyone.
Alex White, a London businessman, says the ban will bring an end to many traditional pubs.
"Pubs will die their death, absolutely dead. Despite what they are saying about Scotland and Dublin, I am half Irish, Dublin pubs are closing in droves, despite what the government figures are saying. Little pubs are shutting down. Where are all these people who are going to come out of the woodwork now that smokers aren't there to fill the pubs? It doesn't work, really it doesn't make sense," he said.
Last Monday (June 25), the smokers' lobby group 'Forest' organised a 'Freedom dinner' to protest against the ban. In what the group said was "probably the last opportunity to eat, drink and smoke", speakers voiced their opposition to the ban.
"For Britain's 12 million smokers, which is a quarter of the adult population, they will have nowhere to go other than smoke in the streets, or to smoke in open air parks, or to smoke at home", said Simon Clark, Forest spokesperson.
The ban is expected to have a big effect on businesses across England.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has already banned smoking at a number of its premises. At the end of last year, the company reported that sales at 56 non-smoking pubs in England and Wales were higher compared to when they allowed smoking on these premises. But JD Wetherspoon's chief executive, John Hutson, said a transition period after the general ban could be difficult.
"In many regards the pub was becoming almost the last bastion of the smoker, because really cinemas had more or less stopped doing it, you can't smoke on planes, trains, offices all that sort of thing, so we felt ourselves that maybe the transition might be quite difficult," Hutson said.
"It's hard to predict what might happen in the first year or so we think sales might actually go down a little bit but they may not. But what we do feel confident about is that in the long run sales should probably go back up again and probably do even better," he added.
The weather forecast for Sunday (July 1) is cold and cloudy, something not unusual for England. But, as of six o'clock in the morning, the clouds hanging over England will be of rain -- and not of smoke.
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