England's smoking ban in enclosed public places will come into force on 1 July 2007, the Government has confirmed.
It gives hospitality operators, still awaiting the definitive regulations governing the ban, just over half a year to finalise their strategies.
England will be the last part of the UK to ban smoking inside public areas. Scotland introduced its ban at the end of March and both Wales and Northern Ireland intend to have bans in place during April 2007.
The Government's procrastination over the start date, despite the vote in favour of a full ban by MPs back in February of this year, has frustrated pub leaders' efforts to plan a smooth changeover.
However, union body the TUC welcomed the news and its general secretary Brendan Barber, said: "The UK's pubs, bars and restaurants will become healthier places to work overnight, and in the longer term fewer workers will fall ill or die as a result of second-hand smoke."
By Chris Druce
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