Business welcome smoking vote

BUSINESSES in Suffolk have broadly welcomed the decision by MPs to back a total ban on smoking in pubs - believing that a ban of some sort was “inevitable”.

BUSINESSES in Suffolk have broadly welcomed the decision by MPs to back a total ban on smoking in pubs - believing that a ban of some sort was “inevitable”.

MPs voted by a huge majority last week for a complete ban on smoking in pubs and clubs, despite proposals for a partial ban which would have allowed it in premises not serving food.

The ban looks set to be backed up with far heavier fines than originally proposed - up to £2,500 compared to £200 for licensees who allow smokers to light up.

Simon Loftus chairman of Southwold-based brewery Adnams, which owns 80 pubs, said some pub businesses would be hit “very hard indeed”, but felt there were issues about protecting staff from second-hand smoke.

“We argued for a total ban,” he said. “We saw that a ban of some sort was inevitable and it makes absolutely no sense from our point of view to have a partial ban.”

Adnams had argued for consistency because it felt pubs serving food would trade at an unfair disadvantage otherwise, although he also acknowledged that there would be some customers of Adnams pubs who would be “furious” about the ban.

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“I'm not trying to say there's some big moral issue here; it's much more a practical issue,” he said. “I personally think it's inevitable. I'm very loathe to tell people how they should behave unless it seriously affects other people, but I think there's sufficient evidence about the impact of passive smoking to make one concerned.”

Frances Brace, spokesperson for Bury St Edmunds-based brewery Greene King, welcomed the clarity the decision brought.

“The pub industry has for some time urgently needed clarity on the exact form of the smoking ban, and at last this has been provided.

“Since a ban of some description was inevitable, it seemed sensible to make it apply right across the board to pubs and clubs alike.”

John Bjornson, owner of the Earl Soham brewery, which has two pubs, welcomed the decision, despite being an occasional smoker. He hoped that eventually trade would be boosted as a result.

“Personally overall I think it's a good idea. Anything that can help me and my friends give up smoking completely,” he said.

“Everywhere else you are a social pariah. Obviously, the infringement of personal liberty is another issue - it's another brick in the wall. I'm hoping it'll open up the pub as a more acceptable and attractive place for people with families, the people who don't smoke.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the ban would have positive effects in cutting down risks to staff from secondary smoking and the possibility of insurance premiums going up for businesses as a result.

He felt businesses were “generally favourable” to the idea. “I think it has to be welcomed. I don't think it will affect business,” he added.