Pubs for complete ban on smoking

Published on Jan 24, 2006 12:22 PM IST

Pub owners and anti-smoking groups banded together to urge lawmakers not to exempt members only clubs from a planned smoking ban.

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None | ByAssociated Press, London

Pub owners and anti-smoking groups banded together Monday to urge lawmakers not to exempt members' only clubs from a planned smoking ban in England and Wales.

Around 20,000 private members' clubs - which include servicemen's clubs, sports clubs and gentlemen's clubs - are currently not covered by proposals to prohibit smoking in workplaces and restaurants.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has put forward plans to outlaw smoking in most public places in England and Wales, except for private clubs - which would take a vote on whether to introduce the measures - and pubs that do not serve food.

Blair's proposal is due to be voted on in mid-February, when lawmakers are expected to overturn the exemption. Lobby groups claim staff in private venues deserve the same protection as those working in places which will be covered by the ban.

"Clubs, including sports clubs, and their employees are covered by every other piece of employment law and health and safety law," Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, told a press conference Monday.

"Why should they be excluded from this law?" "There's really no justification that a bar worker in a club and a bar worker in a pub shouldn't have the same laws apply to them," said lawmaker John Grogan, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group. "It doesn't seem to have any great logic to it."

However, the pro-smoking lobby group Forest claimed a wave of "anti-smoking hysteria" is sweeping English-speaking countries. "Freedom of choice is an extremely important concept," said Forest director Simon Clark. "We believe it's perfectly possible for people to remain healthy and choose to smoke." Ireland, Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and several U.S. states and cities have restricted smoking in public places in recent years.

Scotland is to introduce a total ban this year, while a partial ban is due to follow in Northern Ireland in 2007. Health officials claim around 114,000 people die each year from smoking related illnesses in Britain.

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