England stubs out smoking for breath of fresh air
Smoking will be banned in bars, workplaces and public buildings on Sunday
LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - England slams the door on smoking in bars, workplaces and public buildings on Sunday in what campaigners hail as the biggest boost to public health since the creation of the National Health Service in 1948.
"Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death," said Deborah Arnott, director of charity Action on Smoking and Health.
"Workers have a right to a safe environment and the harm done by tobacco smoke is now known to be significantly dangerous," she said.
But artist David Hockney, who has been waging a one-man campaign against the ban, calls it a "grotesque piece of social engineering" imposed by a "political and media elite".
The English ban means smoking in enclosed public places like pubs will now be banned across the entire United Kingdom.
Wales and Northern Ireland outlawed public smoking in April following the lead of Scotland last year.
Ireland and other European countries have also banned smoking indoors, while some parts of Canada and a number of U.S. states have had strict controls on smoking for years.
The legislation is designed to protect people from the effects of second-hand smoke at work, which doctors estimate kills more than 600 people a year.
But the government hopes it will also help smokers quit and discourage children from taking up the habit.
A quarter of adults smoke, with the level higher among those doing manual and routine jobs.
Individuals lighting up against the law face fines of up to 200 pounds while businesses can be charged up to 1,000 pounds for failing to display "no smoking" signs.
The ban will be enforced by local authorities, with many saying they will adopt a "softly softly" approach at first.
But in Birmingham 100 enforcement staff will hand out 50 pound spot fines to anyone refusing to put out an offending cigarette.
No smoking signs must displayed wherever the ban applies -- which includes minicabs, company cars and churches.
"Most people instinctively wouldn't smoke in church but if the law says we must display the signs then we want our churches to comply," said Anni Holden of the Anglican Diocese of Hereford.
People will still be able to smoke at home, although those receiving home visits from carers and council employees can expect to be asked not to smoke for a period before they arrive.
Offshore oil rigs, hotel rooms and prison cells are among the few places where public smoking will continue to be permitted.
Also, unlike in Scotland, actors will be able to smoke on stage where it is required for "artistic integrity".
Not everyone supports the new laws but most are resigned to them.
Richard Lilley, a 37-year old law firm printer relaxing with as cigarette and pint of beer in a pub in London's Fleet Street said he did not want to give up smoking because he enjoyed it.
"I won't bother going to the pub, I will drink at home. I enjoy a beer with a cigarette, it's part of the culture."
Others will sit or stand outside, with many pubs installing rain awnings and patio heaters to accommodate smokers.
In Liverpool the council will distribute 20,000 foil-lined pocket-sized pouches for smokers to put away their used stubs in an attempt to keep pavements clean outside bars and pubs.
For determined cigarette addicts pub banishment may bring one compensation -- smokers in Scotland say they have enjoyed making new acquaintances among fellow tobacco exiles standing outside bars since the ban began there last year.
(Additional reporting by Simon Rabinovitch)
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