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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Legal challenge to ban on smoking
No smoking signs
Campaigners say the ban contravenes human rights
A legal challenge to the government's smoking ban in England has been launched at the High Court.

Freedom To Choose says the change in the law from 1 July contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

A judge will now decide whether they have a case raising genuine issues of law that should go to a full trial.

The government said it would vigorously fight any challenge to the ban, which applies to almost all enclosed public places and workplaces.

'Test case'

Freedom To Choose lodged a petition for a judicial review of the legislation at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The group cites Article One of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights which assures the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions. It also points to Article Eight which covers the right to respect for privacy.

"This will be a legal test case with significant wider public interest," says the group, which is spearheaded by pub landlord Robert Feal-Martinez.

"We want the government to realise a total ban is not necessary," said Mr Feal-Martinez, who argues that ventilation systems can reduce the harmful impact of second-hand smoke.

The group's legal case has been funded entirely by public donations, gathered through its website and public events.

Somewhat confusingly, there is another campaign group opposed to the smoking ban called Freedom2Choose, started by the managing director of Blackpool-based tobacco vending machine supplier Duckworth.

They are not involved with the current legal action.

The smoking ban in England follows similar moves in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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