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Liverpool lights the way for pub ban; Licensees awoke yesterday morning to the prospect of being smoke free by next summer. Mike Chapple reports.

Byline: Mike Chapple

THE morning after the night before didn't seem so painful after all. Consensus of opinion in Liverpool seemed to be that the passing of a blanket ban on smoking in pubs by a huge Commons majority was merely a nod to the inevitable.

It didn't stop city campaigners at SmokeFree Liverpool - who have been bidding to be the first British city to follow in the footsteps of smoke-free New York and Dublin - from expressing their extreme delight at the decision.

"It was absolutely fantastic, it was everything and more than what we expected," said Frances Molloy, director of Health at Work, which partners SmokeFree Liverpool and went down to London for the vote.

"We know it has been a scary time for business interests but, because of our campaigning, we are the only British city with the infrastructure in place to help them make the transition into adapting to the new law before its introduced in Summer next year."

Part of the campaign involved taking a party of councillors to New York and Merseyside publicans to Dublin and Cork to see for themselves how drinking bans had affected trade.

"There was no evidence on these trips of any major long term impact to trade from the bans," she explained.

"Beforehand they had all been saying how bad it was going to be. But the sky hasn't fallen in and they're still there."

Now that their aims have all been accepted, she said the need for Liverpool to become the first smoke free city had become irrelevant.

"We always wanted national legislation. We never wanted to do this on our own, especially since the government have now brought forward its own timescale for the original Bill by 18 months. What people should also remember is that this has never been about anti smoking. It's about protecting workers' health in this city and give them a safe smoke-free environment."

Ian Gardner, regional director for the Campaign For Real Ale, representing pubs in Merseyside Cheshire and North Wales, said that the group's official stance was for pubs with two rooms to be allowed to have a "smoking parlour" in the smaller one.

He said: "Speaking as an individual, however, I preferred the totally no smoking option which I know from the arguments that have occurred at meetings is not something everyone agrees with."

Carol Ross is the licensee at one of Liverpool city centre's most popular traditional pubs - the Roscoe Head off Leece Street. She's a smoker but feels the new legislation will help her to give up her 20-plus a day habit. Another factor she's glad about is that a ban would ensure that the Roscoe's recent pounds 120,000 refurbishment will be protected from the ravages of smoke and her revamped toilets from the curse of all cleaners - the fag butt.

The Roscoe, though, is very much a smokers' pub as anyone who has encountered the almost permanent fug that hangs around the bar on a busy Saturday night will testify.

Carol, however, has felt that many of her customers - although not happy about a ban - suspected that it has been inevitable for some time, especially given Liverpool's high profile anti-smoking blitz.

"They'll just have to do what I'm going to have to do if I fancy a smoke and that's go outside," Carol maintained.

Fiona Watkin, licensee of Thomas Rigby's on Dale Street, is also a smoker and will be taking advantage of her pub's large courtyard to have a smoke.

"I still think we should have been allowed to have had a no smoking room, but I think most people were resigned to what happened last night," said Fiona. "At least with a blanket ban everyone's playing on a level playing field. You have to fight for your track and come up with ideas.

"For instance we've got a beer festival coming up involving us, The Lion and the Ship and Mitre so why couldn't people have a smoke while they're on a crawl between pubs."

As for the punters, 54-year-old non smoker and Roscoe regular Neil Lawrenson, from Sefton Park, explained: "It's all very well banning smoking but it's not stopped people lighting up on buses without people doing anything about it, so how's it going to work down the local?"

Thirty-eight-year old John Swinson, from Walton, a Rigby's regular and a smoker, agreed.

"Personally it won't be a problem for me.

"I'll just be going outside like the others when I fancy a drag. But what about those situations like it's a Saturday night in town and you've got a gang of drunk lads who decide to light up inside. "What do you do? Go up and say excuse me sir would you kindly refrain from smoking. I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to work that one out."

We always wanted national legislation

What do you think?

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The ban is aimed at protecting those that work in pubs and clubs' A casual cigarette will have to be stubbed out Anna Slater in The Grapes, on Knight Street Picture: TRACEY O'NEILL
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 16, 2006
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Next Article:Two years on and Ireland's pubs and bars are a success after stamping out cigarettes.

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