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Monday, January 24, 2005

No smoke without pounds

Congratulations to Wetherspoons, who have announced that they are to ban smoking in all of their 650 pubs by May 2006. This is an important step forward but it is not a moment for complacency. I can see those who are opposed to an all-out ban on smoking in public places using this announcement to show that voluntary action works. That is not the case.

Wetherspoons have made a commercial decision, it is true, but it is noticeable that they have not sought to reach a compromise measure involving improved ventilation as FOREST argue is possible. The fact is that ventilation is not effective in protecting non-smokers from the effect of second-hand tobacco smoke as it does not remove all of the dangerous particles from the air. In addition the smoke has to pass over the non-smoker before it is extracted. The only way to properly protect customers and staff is to have a complete ban within enclosed public spaces.

I have not been in a Wetherspoon pub since they issued anti-euro beer mats, leaflets and postcards to all of their customers in 2001. This was partly a political decision but largely it came about because I do not have the time to go to town and drink socially in large chain pubs as I did before I was elected. If I go to the pub at all I will go to my local.

The decision to ban smoking makes my return more likely but the two Wetherspoon pubs in Swansea will not be the only ones to exercise such a prohibition. The Lounge in Wind Street, led the way and at present it looks a more attractive option than its Wetherspoon rivals.

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