Businesses must enforce a total ban on smoking

A TOTAL ban on smoking in pubs, clubs, restaurants and the workplace is set to go ahead after a majority of MPs voted for the ban last week. The vote was 384 to 184 in favour of a blanket ban, throwing out proposals for a partial ban such as exemptions f

A TOTAL ban on smoking in pubs, clubs, restaurants and the workplace is set to go ahead after a majority of MPs voted for the ban last week. The vote was 384 to 184 in favour of a blanket ban, throwing out proposals for a partial ban such as exemptions for private clubs and pubs that do not serve food.

The ban is expected to be in place by next summer, and a set of hefty fines are included in the Bill. The penalty for businesses and authorities that fail to stop people smoking in prohibited areas has been set at £2,500 - quite a leap from the initial proposal of £200.

Businesses will face on-the-spot fines of £200 for failing to display non-smoking signs, and could be fined up to £1,000 if taken to court. Individuals who break the rules will face a fixed on-the-spot fine of £50. The Bill also proposes to raise the age at which you can buy cigarettes from 16 to 18.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt performed a last-minute U-turn on the issue before the final vote on Tuesday, February 14. That morning she told Radio 4 Today programme that there was a strong case for exempting private clubs from the ban. By the end of the day, she had changed her mind, and opened the debate in the House of Commons supporting a total ban.

Miss Hewitt is not the only one to contradict herself - the Labour manifesto last year advocated a partial ban in order to allow smoking in pubs that do not serve food and private member clubs. When it came to the vote, however, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown went back on this election promise by supporting a blanket ban. The cabinet is said to have been swayed by the argument that a total ban could help 600,000 people to give up smoking.

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