Smoking ban planned for many public areas in the UK

The British Government is all set to implement smoking bans in many public areas.

Ministers have already published details of plans to ban smoking in pubs serving food, all restaurants and other public places, including many bus stops.

Health Minister Caroline Flint has been quick to deny that an outright ban in all public places in England was planned.

She apparently wants smoking banned in workplaces by the end of 2007 and banned in places where food is served by 2008.

The move has of course caused great controversy with critics saying the plans do not go far enough, while smokers' lobby group Forest said they were "unnecessary".

Ministers are inviting "opinions" on the proposals, which allow smoking in pubs where food is not prepared. They want to know what the industry, charities and the public think.

Flint says there would be some exemptions, for example pubs not serving "prepared food".

Among the proposals is the suggestion that smoking be banned at bus stops where there is a shelter and sides, and places such as football stadiums and railway stations could also be hit.

The 11-week consultation will consider issues which include for example, pub gardens, and how penalties would be implemented to enforce the ban.

It is also suggested that smoking be banned within one metre of the bar in pubs where smoking is allowed.

Many critics say the plans fail to go far enough and want England to follow the Republic of Ireland's blanket ban on smoking in all pubs and bars.

Scotland is also planning a comprehensive ban expected to be introduced next year.

The Welsh Assembly will be provided with powers so they can reach their own conclusion about what to do about smoking.

The plans suggest institutions such as prisons, residential care and mental health hospitals should not be covered by a ban.

Critics also point out that there are thousands of pubs, many concentrated in the poorest areas where smoking is more common, which either do not serve food or would stop doing so in order to escape the ban.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb, accused ministers of holding back from a complete ban in enclosed public spaces because they feared it would be unpopular.

He sees no sense in allowing exemptions for smoking in pubs which do not serve food. He says if the government is going to stop passive smoking because it is bad for you, then whether you are eating or not is irrelevant.

The anti-smoking organisation Action on Smoking on Health (ASH), is also set to be joined by health representative bodies such as the British Medical Association, and a host of health charities.

Professor Alex Markham, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, says they believe that public support for fully comprehensive smoke-free legislation is stronger than ever.

Dr Sam Everington, the British Medical Association's deputy chairman, says it is acknowledged that second-hand smoke kills, and the lives and health of employees must be the priority.

But smokers' lobby group Forest is launching an advertising campaign to persuade the government to reject the smoking ban.

Forest director Simon Clark says that punitive legislation is unwelcome and unnecessary and would infringe the rights of hundreds of thousands of people, including publicans and restaurateurs.

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