Two thirds of Scots believe that pubs and clubs should be able to accommodate smokers, according to a survey for the smoking lobby group Forest.
Forest is opposed to proposals for a blanket ban
The poll found that a majority of Scots supported new smoking legislation.
Forest said when people were quizzed in more detail they were opposed to "sweeping proposals that would leave smokers nowhere to smoke in public".
But ministers said they had public backing for an outright ban which would reap "huge rewards" for health.
The Scottish Executive proposals to outlaw smoking in enclosed public places would bring in fines for pub licensees and persistent smokers who flout the law from spring 2006.
Ministers described the bill as "the most important piece of public health legislation in a generation".
However, Scottish Forest spokesman Neil Rafferty said people did not support the executive's proposed approach.
"Our research shows that the Scottish public overwhelmingly believes that people should be allowed to smoke in some public places," he said.
"Scots support a reasonable, rational, middle way, and when questioned in more detail are opposed to the sweeping proposals that would leave smokers nowhere to smoke in public, not even in a separate, well ventilated smoking area within pubs, bars or members' clubs."
The poll was conducted by Populus, which interviewed 1,000 people earlier this month.
Of those questioned, 59% said they supported new legislation on smoking.
When they were offered choices other than a blanket ban, 66% said that pubs, bars and clubs should be able to accommodate smokers.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they thought it should be up to licensees rather than politicians to determine their own smoking policy.
More than 75% of those questioned said that people have the right to smoke in public as long as they do not inconvenience non-smokers.
Health Minister Andy Kerr said opinion polls had offered a mixed feedback on smoking.
"But we are not running government by opinion poll," he said.
"We have taken a decision that will reap huge rewards for the health of this and future generations.
"What we are doing is right for the people of Scotland - and we have their backing, as shown by the overwhelming response to our public consultation."
Populus, which conducted the survey, said it interviewed a sample of 1,000 people across Scotland from 6 to 8 January.