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1 Jul, 2007 02:25

UK outlaws smoking in public places

A ban on smoking in public places comes into force in Britain on Sunday, bringing the nation into line with more than 35 other countries. The ban outlaws tobacco in virtually all enclosed public areas, including pubs, clubs and cafes.

While pro-health campaigners are welcoming a healthier and cleaner future in Britain, hardened smokers – those who can’t imagine life without tobacco – insist the ban deprives them of one of life's simple joys. 

“I’m not stupid. I’ve read the research. Every day I am reminded that something terrible is going to happen to me because I have a cigarette. But this government believes in its wisdom that they can tell me how I should live my life!” said Sue Carol, a columnist from The Daily Mirror.

Even some non-smokers are fighting the ban.  They believe it is an infringement of liberty, which violates fundamental laws of human rights – in particular the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions. 

“They eventually want to ban smoking in your own home. It’s not just about smoking, it is a much bigger issue. The issue is how far should politicians interfere in the daily life of ordinary people – because today it’s tobacco, tomorrow it will be alcohol, the day after that it will be what we are allowed to eat,” said Simon Clark, Director of Forest Smokers lobby group.

But officials have a very different perspective. They believe it’s a big day for the health of the nation and predict an estimated 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of the new law. 

“This isn’t about breaching the rights of smokers, smokers can continue to smoke but in places where they don’t put other people at risk. The key issue here is that in an enclosed space where people are working, if somebody smokes the non-smokers’ rights are violated – their right to try to be healthy, their right to protect themselves from the poisons that are in burning tobacco,” said Sue Wooley from the British Medical Association.

Even the world's home of men’s bespoke tailoring might be affected by the ban. “Davies and son” is the oldest independent tailor on Savile Row. Its traditional smoking jackets have been revered since Victorian times – but they may now go out of fashion. 

While restaurants will be the biggest beneficiaries – analysts predict that nightclubs, casinos and bingo halls will be hardest hit. As for pubs, the example of Ireland – the first country in Europe where the ban was introduced in 2004 – shows that those who have enclosed or even heated outdoor smoking areas can survive and even blossom. 

Still, campaigners for the right to smoke haven't given up.  They are launching a High Court challenge over the Government's smoking ban.