Beer chief calls for total ban on smoking

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The Independent Online

The industry group joined forces with the health lobby to urge MPs to support clear legislation on smoke-free workplaces and to oppose any exemption for members' clubs in the forthcoming free vote on smoking in the Health Bill.

Mr Hayward shared a platform yesterday with Kevin Barron MP, the chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, as well as representatives of the British Medical Association and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Mr Hayward said: "Exempting Britain's 20,000 members' clubs from a smoking ban that affected all pubs would be grossly unfair on the pub trade, and makes no sense in terms of protecting people from second-hand smoke."

The proposed partial smoking ban has been strongly criticised by pub groups such as Mitchells & Butlers and Wolverhampton & Dudley as a "retrograde step", and there have been calls for a level playing field.

The British Beer and Pub Association argues that in many areas, members' clubs such as the British Legion or working men's clubs will lure all the smokers and lead to the closure of community pubs and other licensed venues such as restaurants, bingo clubs and casinos, which simply cannot compete.

It pointed out that 46 per cent of people who go to pubs smoke, compared with a national average of 25 per cent. The group argued that companies that have trialled smoking bans may have seen an increase in food sales but that has not been enough to make up for the huge loss in other income.

A spokesman for the industry group said Ireland had a 12 per cent drop in pub sales in the weeks after it introduced a full smoking ban in March 2004, adding that the impact on Britain's 60,000 pubs would depend on how extensive the ban is.

Deborah Arnott, the director of the health lobby group ASH, said: "Comprehensive smoke-free legislation is the only sensible option. It is the fairest solution for employers. It is the easiest solution to implement and enforce. It is the only solution that protects all employees from health damage caused by second-hand smoke."