Publicans wary as ban is passed
NOW that smoking will be banned in all public places from next summer, The Comet spoke to local landlords and MPs to gauge their reaction to the ban. Four of the five MPs in Comet country backed the ban on smoking during the vote on Tuesday by 384 votes
NOW that smoking will be banned in all public places from next summer, The Comet spoke to local landlords and MPs to gauge their reaction to the ban.
Four of the five MPs in Comet country backed the ban on smoking during the vote on Tuesday by 384 votes in favour and 184 against.
Campaigners are calling it the most important advance in public health in 50 years.
The move means workers will be protected from second-hand smoke and experts predict that as many as 700,000 smokers will be encouraged to quit smoking during the first year of the ban.
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But the reaction to the ban in our area has been mixed.
One landlady, who did not want to be named, said: "I think it should be left up to the person to make that decision.
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"Customers in this pub have voiced their concerns and most people who come here do smoke.
"There are two non-smoking places nearby and I feel that if people could not smoke in here it could ruin our business. It could really wreck us."
Steve Malyon, landlord at The White Lion pub in Baldock, said: "It was inevitable really and we'll have to stick by it. It shouldn't make such a big difference to the amount of customers we get."
Kevin Machin, the owner of the Engineers Arms, High Street, Henlow, said he would abide by the law as he does not want to face a hefty fine by breaking it.
He said he would follow the example of pub owners in Ireland and try to accommodate his smoking customers outside.
"We might make a facility of some sort for the smokers to use outside. We do have a patio that is covered outside so maybe we could do something there," he said.
Director of public health for North Herts and Stevenage PCT Dr Raymond Jankowski welcomed the news.
He said: "This comprehensive smoke-free legislation will have a huge impact on public health, both by protecting vulnerable workers in pubs, bars and restaurants and by encouraging many thousands of smokers to quit.
"There are many ways in which the NHS can help you give up smoking. Contact the Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service on 0800 389 3 998 to find out more about the support available."
Stevenage MP Barbara Follett had a personal reason for the way she voted. She told The Comet: "I voted for the ban because smoking kills. It killed my father at 56 and my uncle at 35."
North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt said he feared there will be some backlash by those who enjoy smoking but he feels that over time it will become the norm.
He said: "I voted as I did because firstly I do believe smoking is harmful. If young people see its exclusion from pubs and clubs as a signal that something is wrong and do not start themselves, then that is a good thing."
He believes MPs were right to vote for a total ban rather than a partial ban because "on a matter of public health you should have the same rules for all".
But MP Peter Lilley said: "The evidence that passive smoking is harmful even where people live with a smoker is tenuous and even weaker for exposure in public places.
"It is another example of the puritanical nanny state and unnecessary laws."
North East Herts MP Oliver Heald said: "It was clear that making exemptions would create many problems of enforcement, because of the need to define private clubs and because of the very heavy regulatory regime that the Government was planning. Experience in other countries such as America and Ireland has been that bar takings have risen as more customers have attended the smoke-free premises."
Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries voted for the total ban after 85 per cent of the 200 constituents who contacted her said they supported the ban. She said: "My vote was a genuine vote on behalf of the people of Mid Bedfordshire."
* The ban will start in summer 2007.
* It covers pubs, private clubs, nightclubs, restaurants, taxis and workplaces.
* Smokers who break the regulations face £50 fines.
*l Pubs and clubs which fail to enforce the ban face being fined as much as £2,500.