Smoking ban puts 1,450 jobs at risk

PUBLICIANS across the region fear a ban on smoking in licensed premises that serve food will drive them out of business.They spoke of their concerns as the Government confirmed smoking would be banned in the majority of enclosed public places in England within four years - including 90% of pubs that prepare and serve food.

PUBLICIANS across the region fear a ban on smoking in licensed premises that serve food will drive them out of business.

They spoke of their concerns as the Government confirmed smoking would be banned in the majority of enclosed public places in England within four years - including 90% of pubs that prepare and serve food.

The announcement has provoked a nationwide debate and prompted fears of thousands of job losses in the pub trade.

An East Anglian Daily Times poll has been set up to allow readers to give their views on the potential smoking ban.

However, an overwhelming number of pubs and restaurants in Essex and Suffolk contacted by the EADT yesterday voiced their opposition to the plan.

Many smaller pubs and village inns said it could lead to last orders being called for the final time in the near future.

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Out of 30 licensed premises contacted, 21 (70%) opposed the ban, with seven (23%) saying they supported it and two unsure.

Mick Clarke, landlord of The Crown Inn, Fordham, near Newmarket, said: “I think a ban would kill village pubs off completely. It's hard enough to earn a living without this.

“Around 60% of my customers are smokers and I can't see them in November and December heading outside for a smoke. I think they'll just sit at home and drink their cans of lager from Tesco.”

Ruth Giddings, landlady of The Rose, Shotley, near Ipswich, added: “I think it's going to kill a lot of the smaller pubs.

“If it comes to it, we will just stop serving food. I just think it's a shame when it's dictated to you what you can and can't do.”

Nigel Paul, owner of The Greyhound, Henley Road, Ipswich, said: “I can see it is a good thing in one way, but as a business owner it is not going to do me any good. It will cut down my trade and a lot of pub owners will wonder whether it is worth being in the business anymore.”

Sean Traynor, of the Fox, Honington, near Bury St Edmunds, felt individual pubs should decide their smoking policies.

“A ban would be particularly hard on pubs like mine - it's not like a town centre pub that can attract other customers. This will kill us completely,” he said.

Mike Ager, of the King's Head, Hadleigh, added: “I think it should be voluntary, pubs could either be smoking or no-smoking and people will have a choice whether they go in or not.”

Geoff Ford, landlord of the Cherry Tree, Woodbridge, said: “I think it should be left to the licensee running the business to set their standard themselves. In our pub we have a large non-smoking area and there's no smoking at 50% of the bar. I think we've got a fairly good compromise.”

Tim Yeo, proprietor of the Black Tiles, Martlesham, added: “We've seen the writing on the wall for the past few years and about 75% of our floor space is non-smoking. But I think there's a bit of the nanny state about it - it takes away individual choice.”

Janice Eldrett, of the Manger at Bradfield Combust, said she was in favour of a ban, but would try to ensure smokers were not driven away.

“We're looking into how we can put a temporary cover over our patio area and put in a heater so people who like a smoke with their drink have somewhere to go rather than outside. I have got regulars who like a cigarette and I want to ensure I can cater for them,” she added.

Michelle Callaghan, manager of The Ship, Levington, near Ipswich, said: “I don't think a smoking ban will affect us very much. Most of our customers specifically ask for non-smoking tables.”

Patrick Minder, owner of The Lemon Tree, St John's Street, Colchester, said he supported the proposal and had banned smoking, except at the bar, three years ago.

The North Hill Exchange restaurant, North Hill, Colchester, opened 10 years ago and has always been non-smoking, except at the bar.

Owner Doug Wright said he fully supported the ban and added: “It should have been done years ago.”

David Green, who has owned the Bathhouse pub in Walton on the Naze for 15 years, said he was “totally against the ban”, which he felt would be hard to police. “I think we are turning this country into a dictatorship,” he added.

Julian Dicks, former West Ham and Liverpool footballer and owner of the Shepherd and Dog pub, Langham, near Colchester, said a total ban would have a negative effect on business.

“There is no choice and we are being told what to do. I think I should have the choice whether it is a smoking pub or not,” he added.

The smoking ban will cost 1,450 pub and bar jobs in the east of England, according to a study by accountants BDO Stoy Hayward.

It added the licensed trade industry could see 32,000 jobs lost nationally, customers fall by 7.6% and profits drop by more than £230million.

But Tony Jewell, director of public health at the Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, said: “We are very much in favour of a move towards smoke-free public places - as soon as possible.”

Val Moore, regional associate director of the Health Development Agency, said any movement towards a ban was welcome, but added the proposed exemptions for pubs not serving food - rather than an outright ban - would not help to tackle the problem of smoking among young people.

Bob Webb, chairman of the Smoke Free Suffolk campaign group, also welcomed yesterday's announcement.

“This is fantastically positive news for us all and I am confident the culture of smoking will extinguish itself,” he added.

But Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said: “The Government has ignored public opinion and surrendered to the vociferous anti-smoking minority.

“Most people want more no-smoking areas and better ventilation in all pubs and bars. They do not want a complete ban on public smoking enforced by an army of tobacco control officers.

“Pubs, clubs and restaurants are private businesses and should be allowed to choose a policy on smoking that suits their customers and their staff.”

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