There’s no smoke without… smoking

We’re all used to the smoking ban in the UK by now. It’s been forbidden for anyone to smoke inside a pub or restaurant since 2007.

This ban has been widely applauded, by non-smokers at least, but has seen the emergence of a new phenomenon – the site of huddled groups outside the entrance to pubs and restaurants enjoying a furtive fag, even in the pouring rain or blizzards.

This sight could now be under threat, as there is a call to ban smoking outside pubs and restaurants as well, including external dining areas.

Research that has been undertaken by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has found that fifty percent of people feel that they would be more likely to use the outdoor areas supplied by bars, pubs and restaurants if the smoking ban was extended.

The city of Bristol recently became the first place in the UK to ban smoking in all external public spaces, after over sixty percent of locals said they were in favour of such a move. Now Brighton has undergone a public consultation to see if residents would be in favour of the same.

‘The health benefits of smoke-free areas and protecting children from second-hand smoke are well established,’ said Daniel Yates, the chair of Brighton’s health and wellbeing board. ‘We’re keen to keep people safe from the effects of smoking in public areas, especially children who are most vulnerable. However, we also want to ensure any measures taken have support of residents in the city.’

In both Bristol and Brighton cases, external areas owned by pubs and restaurants do not qualify as ‘public spaces’. It is up to each individual business owner to decide whether or not to ban smoking outdoors.

The possibility of a ban has not been met with approval by everyone in the hospitality industry, though.

“It’s unclear who would enforce a ban on smoking in areas outside restaurants,’ said Martin Couchman OBE, the deputy CEO of the British Hospitality Association. “We would strongly oppose any attempt to place legal responsibility on the restaurateur to control smoking outside the premises. The RSPH quotes a ban operating in some areas in Bristol, but this is a voluntary scheme, with no legal back up.’

The RSPH’s CEO, Shirley Cramer CBE, said: ‘This would move us on from having a serious and costly public health issue from smoking related disease to instead address the issue of addiction to a substance which in and of itself is not too dissimilar to caffeine addiction. Over 100,000 people die from smoking-related disease every year in the UK. While we have made good progress to reduce smoking rates, 1 in 5 of us still does.’

The no-smoking ban would not extend to eCigarettes, as the RSPH hopes to encourage smokers to use ‘safer’ sources of nicotine.