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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 12:25 GMT
Industry backs outright smoke ban
Smokers in pub
A partial smoking ban would create unfair competition, businesses say
The UK hospitality and leisure industry has called on MPs to implement a blanket ban on smoking in public.

Government plans for a ban are inconsistent and would be impossible to implement, pub and hotel owners told a parliamentary select committee.

Under proposals set out in October, smoking would be banned in most places - including pubs selling food.

But after a recent Cabinet row, private clubs and non-food pubs were exempted from the ban.

Critics and health experts have argued that plans to exempt private clubs and non-food pubs from the ban are bad for health and will prove unworkable.

The news was welcomed by the British Heart Foundation.

"This is a massive step forward and we are delighted that the health community and the hospitality industry are now united in calling for comprehensive smoke-free legislation," said their spokesman Ruairi O'Connor.

Wrangling

British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton warned MPs that it would be difficult to force venues to comply with the new rules.

With widespread wrangling already taking place over what kind of food provision would trigger a smoking ban, the situation would only get worse, he added.

In pubs we've converted (to non-smoking) so far we've seen sales fall by 7%
John Hutson, JD Wetherspoon chief

Instead his members believe a total ban is "the only option" - but time would be needed to prepare for the measure.

"A total ban from 2009 would give us sufficient time to do that," he told MPs.

Business in Sport and Leisure, which represents about 100 private sector firms, also joined the attack.

It wants a total ban to avoid customers moving to venues where smoking is still permitted. It says a partial ban would create an unfair competitive advantage in the market.

Chief executive Brigid Symmonds said the government had failed to understand the effect a ban would have on business, and warned of inconsistencies in implementing the ban.

"Sixty per cent of people who go to bingo clubs smoke. But you can play bingo in a workingmen's club, so bingo players who smoke will go there," she said.

Sales suffer

She also argued that according to "anecdotal" evidence drinks sales had fallen at pubs that have already brought in smoking bans.

John Hutson, chief executive of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain, backed up the claims at the Commons hearing.

"In pubs we've converted so far we've seen sales fall by 7%. Food has gone up while drink sales have gone down," he said.

Meanwhile, costs have gone up as some sites converted to non-smoking pubs.

Since March the group has converted 47 pubs into non-smoking venues with each conversion costing about 50,000 - mainly spent on improvements to kitchen facilities to offset the loss of drink sales.

But the Federation of Licensed Victuallers - which represents smaller pubs - warned MPs that up to 38% of its members could be forced out of business by a total ban.

Earlier this year, figures from the Republic of Ireland, which brought in a smoking ban in March 2004, suggested businesses had seen a downturn in drinks sales while some businesses had closed.




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