Pub Trade Splits on Smoking Ban

Thursday 09 September 2004

Media Release from ASH – Immediate Use: Thursday 9th September  2004
The British pub trade has split dramatically over the prospect of a new law ending smoking in the workplace – including hospitality venues.

Five of the biggest pub companies, controlling about 22,000 out of 55,000 outlets in Britain, have abandoned  the current “Public Places Charter” initiative and promoted their own scheme in the hope of staving off legislation. The five companies are:

·         Enterprise Inns

·         Mitchells and Butlers

·         Punch Pub Company

·         Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises, and

·         Spirit Group.

They are promising to end smoking at and behind the bar area of pubs by the end of 2005, and to move from 35% smokefree trading floor space at the end of 2005 to 80% smokefree by the end of 2009.

But tobacco control pressure group ASH has slammed the new plans as “utterly inadequate” to protect the health of pub workers and members of the public. Smoking and non-smoking areas cannot be effectively separated, since smoke drifts. Pub employees will still have to work in smoking areas, threatening their health.  And the scheme does not cover more than half the country’s pubs. In May this year, Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College London estimated for the Royal College of Physicians that one current or former pub worker a week may die prematurely because of exposure to secondhand smoke at work. He estimates the total number of deaths from workplace exposure across the UK to be 700 a year, three times the number of deaths from all industrial injuries and accidents (Smoking at work ‘kills hundreds’, BBC News – 16 May, 2004).

If the pub trade manages to stave off legislation covering their businesses, it will effectively be impossible for the Government to ensure adequate protection for non-smok*ers in other workplaces where smoking is still permitted. Using Government data, and with the assistance of the Office of National Statistics, ASH has calculated that 2.1 million employees still work in workplaces where there are no smoking restrictions (, press release, 3rd September 2004). ASH and the UK’s largest trade union and personal injury law firm are working to identify possible compensation cases against hospitality trade employers under the Health and Safety at Work Act. If the Government does not legislate, these cases will be vigorously pursued.

The pub companies have claimed that an end to smoking in the workplace could cost the UK economy £3.5 billion. This is flatly contradicted by, among others, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, whose latest annual report estimates that a policy of creating smokefree workplaces in the UK would bring a net benefit to society of between £2.3 and £2.7 billion a year, equivalent to treating 1.3 to 1.5 million people on hospital waiting lists.

ASH Director Deborah Arnott comments:

“This is a last desperate throw of the dice by the biggest players in the pub trade. They spin their plans as a smokefree initiative. But they are nothing of the kind. They will still leave their non-smoking customers gasping. They will fail to protect pub workers from the grim toll of death and disease caused by breathing in other people’s smoke. Finally, this proposal would leave more than half the country’s pubs unaffected. The pub trade seems not to care about public health or the safety of their staff or their non-smoking customers.

This utterly inadequate proposal won’t provide even the flimsiest fig leaf to cover the Government’s shame if it now ducks the challenge of ending smoking in the workplace. We need a new law to achieve this. We need it now. The public wants it. Most MPs back it. Similar laws have been a huge success in Ireland, Norway and across the United States. Let’s get on with it.”

– ENDS –