Peer takes a match to BR smoking ban

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Lord Harris of High Cross came to the rescue of revolting smokers on the London to Brighton line yesterday when he published a report claiming a smoking ban on the trains was illegal.

Smoking has been banned on the line since 1993 but resistance has been mounting. Smokers have taken to huddling together in the buffet car to seek common comfort and BR has deployed plain-clothes inspectors to catch them.

On Friday, the first person to be prosecuted under the new regime will appear before Brighton magistrates. Supporters of Peter Boddington, the alleged smoker, have vowed to fight the case all the way through the legal system. Smokers have been campaigning against the ban since it was introduced. Now Lord Harris, chairman of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), has produced a report, BR in the Dock, castigating British Rail for being "stubborn, inward and impossible to talk to" for refusing to allow a separate carriage for smokers.

"A true test of democracy is to see how the majority treat the minority - in this case smokers have just been steam-rollered. 'BR man' has enjoyed the monopoly for far too long. He is rather stubborn and inward," Lord Harris said.

The revolt is now spreading, with at least two other cells of hard-core smokers operating in the South-east. Known as "Squadron 633", who frequent the 6.33am Cambridge to London train, and the "Hastings Howlers", they have vowed to unite against the ban.

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