Region backs public smoking ban

By Rebecca SheppardPUBS and restaurants in East Anglia could be smoke-free within 18 months after a survey revealed 80% of people wanted the habit stubbed out.

By Rebecca Sheppard

PUBS and restaurants in East Anglia could be smoke-free within 18 months after a survey revealed 80% of people wanted the habit stubbed out.

The results of the Big Smoke Debate were released yesterday and showed 84% of the 7,882 people surveyed in the region would prefer public places to be smoke-free.

In Essex, 86% of people said they wanted smoking banned in public places and 64% were bothered by tobacco smoke in public places, while in Suffolk the figures were 85% and 63% respectively.

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The survey, published by the East of England Public Health Group, also showed that four out of five people in the region would back a law to make all workplaces smoke-free.

But Vlastik Dietrich, landlord of The Station Hotel in Wivenhoe, said he believed a smoking ban could put single-room pubs like his out of business.

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“I think it could close this pub down because 90% of the customers are smokers. They won't stand outside and they won't give up smoking for drinking in here,” he added.

“I think they would start with restaurants first and then pub-restaurants. Then I assume they will try to force pubs to have designated rooms for non-smokers.

“But I couldn't have a designated room - you would need a brick wall built across the pub. The brewery won't do that and I can't do it. You can't separate them, so it would have to be all or nothing.”

Michael Collins, chairman of Ipswich Pubwatch and landlord of the town's PJ McGinty pub, said he felt that in 18 months' time pubs would “more than likely be non-smoking if they like it or not.”

He added: “Outside at McGinty's there is an area that is heated, where people watch football. I could make that a smoking area and inside could be non-smoking.”

But Mr Collins said in Ireland, where smoking has been banned in workplaces, he knew of licensees that had lost between 20% and 25% of their trade.

However, he pledged to encourage members of Pubwatch to undertake a questionnaire of customers' views about making smoke-free areas in their venues.

Tracey Platt, manager of the Rushbrooke Arms in Sicklesmere, has already implemented a non-smoking policy in the pub.

“I just realised that we were looking after the minority of people rather than the majority. We wanted to be family-based and people with children do not want to go into smoky atmospheres,” she said.

“The response has been fantastic. We do have a few negative comments from smokers, but the non-smokers think it's great, which was our aim. People can still smoke outside.”

Bob Webb, chairman of Smoke Free Suffolk (Suffolk Alliance Against Tobacco), said it would keep the pressure on public authorities, especially the NHS, to get smoking banned in public places as soon as possible.

“I am delighted that we have got massive public support and confirmation of what we have been asking for a long time,” he added.

“The next step is to really publicise the information we have got from the survey as widely as possible.

“We are trying to find out what public buildings are smoke-free. One of our projects is to try to do a survey of buildings run by public authorities that should be smoke-free and are not.

“It is not that we are trying to get at smokers, but that we are limiting where smoking happens. We do know, from a huge amount of research, that bans in public places do prompt people to quit.”

Ipswich Hospital said it was following the lead of James Paget Hospital in Gorleston and was discussing the possibility of banning smoking on its premises,

A spokesman for Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust said that its hospitals - including Colchester General Hospital - had a small number of designated areas for smoking.

“However, if there is one thing smokers could do to improve their quality of life and increase their longevity, it's to give up smoking. These days there is a lot more help out there for people wanting to give up,” he added.

“We often pick up the pieces as a result of people smoking and we would like people to give it up - prevention is better than cure.”

Professor Rod Griffiths, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said a smoke-free East of England would be beneficial for everyone - both for the public and for business.

“There is a perception, particularly within the hospitality industry, that going smoke-free will result in a reduction in business, but this is not the case,” he added.

“Smoke-free policies make sense for business as we have seen in smoke-free cities, such as San Francisco or New York, where there has been either a neutral or positive effect on profits.

“People in the East of England should have the right to work in a smoke-free environment and to breathe clean air and the East of England Public Health Group plan to take their views to a wider audience to bring about this change.”

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