London wants local authorities to have the power to ban smoking

25 August 2004
London wants local authorities to have the power to ban smoking

The Association of London Government (ALG) is considering launching a bill giving local authorities the power to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants.

It said the ability to outlaw smoking in public places was one of several issues highlighted by local authorities following a recent consultation. London boroughs are now meeting to discuss those issues, which will be transformed into a London Local Authorities Act by the ALG and taken to Parliament in November.

A spokesman for the ALG said reports of a "dramatic" step forward in the campaign for a ban were "jumping the gun", as royal assent for the act was likely to take two to three years.

Pressure to outlaw smoking in public places in the UK has been mounting since the introduction of a ban in Ireland in March. New figures from the Irish Department of Health and Children show public support for the ban, with 70% of respondents saying it had improved their experience in pubs and 78% saying the same for restaurants.

But reports from the UK industry say a ban will seriously damage business. Jonathan Downey, founder of London-based Match Bar Group, has ended a trial partial ban on smoking in the Player bar, just four months after introducing it.

"I read this quote that banning smoking in one part of a bar was like telling people they could only piss in one part of the pool," he joked.

He added that it had also hit business, with sales in the bar rising by only 3%, against a predicted 10%.

Downey said his reason for the trial was to try to stop Government intervention, but it seemed the Government had already decided to outlaw smoking gradually.

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