Anti-tobacco groups condemn exemptions in Government's smoking legislation

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Medical leaders and health campaigners increased pressure on the Government yesterday to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

The Department of Health published consultation on smoke-free legislation that will see tobacco banned in 99 per cent of workplaces in England by the end of 2008.

But plans for exemptions on some premises - including pubs which do not serve and prepare food and private members clubs - have angered campaigners who condemn them as "half-measures".

There was little indication in the document that ministers would move towards an outright ban, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said the consultation paper contained "no surprises" and built on what was set out in last year's Public Health White Paper.

"Clearly there are people in the medical profession who would prefer an outright ban," she said.

Health leaders, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and Cancer Research UK, have called for a blanket ban as there is in the Republic of Ireland and in Scotland next year.

Yesterday's consultation proposes the penalties businesses and public can expect if they flout the smoke-free laws, including a £200 fine for businesses not displaying warning notices in no-smoking premises.

A £200 penalty would also apply for managers who fail to prevent a person smoking on their premises, with £50 fixed penaltis for members of the public smoking in a smoke-free venue. Herbal cigarettes may be allowed.