FIRST IT was trains, then planes, now it's automobiles. Under Government plans outlined yesterday, that last refuge of the smoker, the black taxi, is set to become a cigarette-free zone.

FIRST IT was trains, then planes, now it's automobiles. Under Government plans outlined yesterday, that last refuge of the smoker, the black taxi, is set to become a cigarette-free zone.

Dodging accusations of "Nanny Blairism", Transport Minister Keith Hill announced proposals that would that result in fines or even jail for anyone who lights up inside a cab.

A consultation document published by Mr Hill includes measures to make smoking in a taxi a criminal offence and to allow cabs to have special signs indicating "No smoking" alongside their "For Hire" signs.

The plans also suggest that the law on hiring should be changed to allow drivers to refuse a fare if a would-be passenger was a smoker.

Mr Hill said that he wanted as many opinions on the subject as possible and indicated that new laws could be drawn up if there was sufficient support.

But Bernard Jenkin, the Shadow Transport Secretary, claimed they represented "ridiculous" state interference into ordinary people's lives.

Simon Clarke, Director of Forest, the smokers' pressure group, said that the UK's 13 million smokers contributed £10.5 billion to the Treasury's coffers every year and were treated like second class citizens.

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