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Smoking ban: The great divide

Leading political and community figures have reacted to the House of Commons vote on a blanket smoking ban in public outlets across the UK.

Leading political and community figures have reacted to the House of Commons vote on a blanket smoking ban in public outlets across the UK.

According to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt thousands of lives will be saved when the proposed smoking ban comes into effect next summer.

MPs voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favour of a complete ban on smoking in all enclosed areas excluding private homes, care homes, hospitals, prisons and hotel bedrooms.

Licensees could be fined £2,500, more than 10 times the previous fine of £200, for not enforcing the ban and smokers will pay a £50 on the spot penalty.

Supporters suggest that non-smokers will return to pubs and clubs they would have previously avoided and bring in economic benefits.

It is predicted that the ban will lead to a 'cultural change' in England and has been referred to by health organisations as 'the biggest life-saver for half a century.'

Chester MP Christine Russell, an occasional smoker who is nevertheless in favour of a total ban on smoking in public places, said: 'What did it for me was when a trade organisation said we back a 100% ban and I think there was a recognition a partial ban would be unworkable and unenforceable.

'There is a plenty of evidence that passive smoking can have a detrimental effect on health.'

Ms Russell was away at a conference and unable to vote in the House but was paired off with an absent Tory MP who supported a partial ban, ensuring they cancelled out each other's votes.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Mia Jones portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, explained: 'We are delighted with the decision in partnership with our ongoing Smoke Free campaign in Chester but feel the exemptions need to be re-assessed.

'We need to have more awareness of ways to quit and promote the various means in a more holistic manner, such as combining healthy diet programmes to avoid weight gain.'

Conservative parliamentary candidate Paul Offer opposes the ban.

He said: 'It is an infringement on civil liberties to extend the ban to private members club and a bizarre contradiction to allow smoking in hospitals and prisons.

'Surveys have shown that 95% of passive smokers contract illnesses in the home, so this legislation may effectively only protect 5%.'

Chester city centre manager Clive Bayley also welcomed the ban, saying: 'The ban will have a positive impact in that the atmosphere will be better.

'Most businesses in Ireland have been in favour of the ban and there appears to have been no adverse effect on business in general.'

However, Chester Business Club secretary Bob Clough Parker explained: 'There will be many individuals that, understandably, will now be scheming to find ways round the ban - and many businesses counting the potential cost of the ban.'

Licensee fumes over Government decision

A PUBLICAN is up in arms after MPs voted for a total ban on smoking in all pubs and private members' clubs in England.

Frank Marnell, who is secretary of Chester Licensed Victuallers' Association, understands why a ban would make sense in restaurants but believes an all-out ban will destroy community pubs.

He said: 'I have a reputable person who has smoked all his life and he drinks six days a week and spends a considerable amount of money. He says he will have to smoke at home so the only ones to benefit will be Tesco and Bargain Booze.

'There are lots of people like him and the effect will be that communities will be gone, the community spirit will be gone and community pubs will go.'

Mr Marnell, who runs the Watergate Inn next to the racecourse, says he is lucky in that he has an outdoor area where smokers can go but says he knows of at least 20 other local pubs which don't.

He said by letting MPs have a free vote on the issue, the Government had allowed the outcome to go much further than its manifesto commitment to have smoking areas within pubs.

He continued: 'Nobody listened to the licensees. What we said was they should make certain pubs smoking and certain pubs non-smoking. Whatever the Government is doing at the present moment, they are not listening to the people that voted for them.'

Mr Marnell, a non-smoker, said instead of taking notice of regular pub goers Tony Blair had only listened to people who go to pubs once a week or once a month.

'What's going to happen to small pubs?' he asked. nHowever, one licensee has already banned smoking from his pub 18 months before government legislation comes into force.

Harry Miller, owner of the Calveley Arms in Handley, himself a reformed smoker, turned his pub and restaurant into a nonsmoking venue at the beginning of January.

'I noticed smoke being blown on children and bar staff and realised it was creating an unhealthy environment.

'It is now a far cleaner, more pleasant atmosphere.

'We are planning a separate, weather-protected outside area where smoking customers can relax.'

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