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gardens ban ‘would help smokers quit’

21 Feb 2012

Banning smoking in pub gardens would cut cigarette use by discouraging people who only light up when they drink, according to research.

Campaigners said that a ban on smoking outside bars and pubs could improve public health, and described people who smoke on patios and pavements as “anti-social”.

Most “social smokers”, who only reach for a cigarette while on a night out, support the idea of extending smoking ban legislation to cover such areas, according to academics.

Ash, the anti-smoking campaign group, said the idea of an outdoor ban would be worth investigating if evidence emerges that it can help occasional smokers.

Their comments came after researchers at the Otago University in New Zealand found 12 out of 13 “social smokers” that they interviewed strongly supported extending anti-smoking legislation.

The interviewees said that although smoking and drinking went “hand in hand”, they considered themselves non-smokers because they only lit up on nights out.

The academics, writing in the journal Tobacco Control, concluded that introducing a policy of smoke-free bars would help social smokers quit by “changing the environment that facilitates it”.

Martin Dockrell, of Ash, said there was currently no evidence available that banning smoking in pubs’ and bars’ outside areas reduced social smoking.

However, he noted: “In New York there are plans to limit smoking in some outdoor places.

“It will be interesting to see if it has any effect on occasional smokers.”

Paul Barlett, a councillor in Stony Stratford near Milton Keynes, who is trying to get the town to go smoke-free, said: “Whatever we can do to discourage smoking has to be encouraged.

“If there was a move to stop smoking outside bars and in pub garden I would support it.”

He argued those who lit up in such spaces were being “anti-social”, particularly if there were children about.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “This small study highlights some interesting points about what triggers some social smokers to light up.

“Given that a quarter of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco, Cancer Research UK believes one key measure that would reduce the attractiveness of smoking would be to remove all branding and colourful designs on packs.

“This would reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people and increase the impact of health warnings on the packs.”

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “The BLF could consider supporting this call for legislation but more research needs to be done to find out if it would make a difference to people’s smoking behaviour.”

However, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “This study can’t be taken seriously: it’s based on just 13 people.

“Aside from that, the smoking ban was brought in allegedly to protect bar workers. Banning smoking outdoors would have nothing to do with that.

“I would also query that social smoking, having the odd cigarette, is an unhealthy activity.”

Anti-smoking campaigners are keen to extend the ban on smoking in public places.

Last November the British Medical Association called for a law to ban smoking in private cars, arguing there was strong evidence that it could be dangerous to others in the vehicle.

The Welsh Government is looking at the idea, as well as another to ban smoking in children’s playgrounds

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