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03rd Jun 2021

Five councils ban smoking outside restaurants and pubs ahead of UK crackdown

Danny Jones

Five councils ban smoking outside

At least five local authorities have banned outdoor smoking amid Covid concerns surrounding outdoor eating culture

As we approach the last step in the roadmap out of lockdown (June 21st), the government are continuing to advise caution not only due to the Indian variant but as groups have now been allowed to gather both indoors and outdoors for the past month. However, we must not forget other ongoing health concerns.

As reported by a number of different outlets, five local authorities have now banned smoking outside in pavement pubs, cafes and restaurants, and other councils are considering following suit. The government is pushing to make England smoke-free in less than a decade; Oxfordshire alone is hoping to achieve that goal by 2025.

The outdoor eating culture brought about by coronavirus has highlighted a long-present issue of smoking outside pubs and cafes. Last summer there was an attempt to push through an amendment to legislation in the House of Lords to make pavements smoke-free, but it ultimately failed.

Throughout the Covid pandemic though, Northumberland County Council, Durham and North Tyneside; Newcastle, and the City of Manchester all banned smoking on stretches of the pavement where bars, restaurants and cafes are currently licensed to put out tables to cater to large groups looking to eat/drink outside.

In addition to these five, all alcohol licences granted by Gateshead Council also stipulate that pavement cafes must be smoke-free, though do not have a catch-all policy at the moment. Oxfordshire County Council said in a statement that “creating healthy smoke-free environments – including considering proposals for hospitality outdoor seating to be 100% smoke-free – is just one small part of a wider range of county-wide plans”.

Moreover, while they too do not yet have a flat-out ban, the region’s crackdown on smoking also includes tougher action to stop the sale of tobacco to under-18s, work to discourage smoking in homes, cars, play parks and smoking outside school gates.

They added that “[a]t present, there are no timeframes for smoke-free pavement licensing proposals and nothing has yet been agreed. Any decision on this would be ultimately the responsibility of our individual district councils in Oxfordshire”.

However, there are plenty of people against the move, as pro-smoking groups say local authorities should not interfere. Simon Clark, the director of the smokers’ lobby group, Forest, said: “It’s no business of local councils if adults choose to smoke, and if they smoke outside during working hours that’s a matter for them and their employer, not the council.”

Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said the pavement bans were popular with most customers, stating that “surveys show that two-thirds of the public want areas outside pubs and cafes to be smoke-free”, as “people complain a lot that if they go outside, they have to sit among smokers.”

The latest tobacco control plan by the government is set to be released on June 9th. Campaigners hope for tough new measures to control smoking and help people quit. Chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has warned that the impact of tobacco is worse than Covid. Smoking kills around 90,000 people a year in the UK.