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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 07:56 GMT
Non-smoking boost for Wetherspoon
JD Wetherspoon pub
Wetherspoon is gearing up for the smoking ban in England
Pubs group JD Wetherspoon says non-smokers are returning to its bars after it introduced a ban in 61 of its premises outside of Scotland.

The firm reported a 5.5% increase in like-for-like sales - which ignore sales at new outlets - in the 12 week period to 21 January.

Wetherspoon plans to open 30 new pubs in 2007, creating 1,200 jobs.

Chairman Tim Martin said: "The pubs that we have made non-smoking have actually seen sales increase."

He added: "At first sales declined, but now we are seeing non-smokers coming in.

"It is a transitional time for pubs but we think they will continue to thrive if well run."

Smoking is already banned in Scottish pubs and is set to be prohibited in Wales and Northern Ireland from 2 April and in England from 1 July.

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