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Focus: Smoking ban

9 May 2007 by business traveller

The smoking ban comes into effect on July 1, with England the last area to turn non-smoking in Great Britain. But what exactly does the ban entail and how will it affect the business traveller?

Smoking used to be cool. In fact, once it was even thought to be good for you. But gradually the world has turned on the tobacco industry and bans on smoking are proliferating, largely thanks to recent research on the dangers of passive smoking. The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a “class A” human carcinogen, in the same family as asbestos, arsenic, benzene and radon gas. According to Smoke Free England, secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 24 per cent and heart disease by 25 per cent.

With this in mind, the Health Act 2006 was passed with the effect of a complete ban on smoking in public places in England. It will apply to all places that are fully enclosed or “substantially enclosed”, which means that hotel bars, lobbies and restaurants will all be non-smoking.

Ireland has had a smoking ban since 2004 and Scotland since last year, while Wales went non-smoking on April 2 and Northern Ireland on April 30. Ruairi O’Connor, general manager of the Radisson SAS Cork, says: “Irish people were, of course, used to just lighting up, but in the end it was like the Euro change-over – people were expecting it for a long time and it went smoothly.”

He adds: “From a hotel’s point of view you don’t want crowds of people smoking on your doorstep and you have to think about allowing people outside later than usual [because you can’t smoke in the bar], so you have to watch where bedrooms are and think about noise levels. Aesthetically, too, it’s important to have a nice area outside, so we have put more plants on the terrace.”

Tim Cordon, general manager at the Radisson SAS Stansted, is preparing for the ban. “We have spoken to our Irish and Scottish colleagues and it’s interesting because they say there was a huge build-up to it and then when it actually happened, it went very smoothly. The first thing we are doing is writing to our regular customers to let them know of the changes. As an airport hotel we see a lot of different nationalities and so they may not be aware of the smoking ban if their country does not have it.

“Secondly, we have been training staff and putting together a smoking compliance plan. Then there is the fabric of the building and deciding which rooms will be smoking and which non-smoking.”

Hotels will still be able to offer smoking rooms as they do not fall into the category of a public space. Cordon says: “The hotel has 500 rooms so there will inevitably be a smoker and we want to cater for those people. About 15 per cent of the room stock will be smoking.”

Most hotels are making it clear that they will provide for the needs of all their customers so there is no need to panic if you are still smoking. And different hotels are adapting in different ways. The Athenaeum hotel, London has a “Sunken Garden” (pictured), which “provides comfortable seating amongst honeysuckle, jasmine, rosemary and olive trees” – something, which may well go unnoticed in a haze of smoke – and is a short walk from the Whiskey Room, which sells Cuban cigars.

The same rules will apply to serviced apartments. Christine Boothroyd, owner and creator of The Chambers in Leeds, says: “While we support the smoking ban, we also want to accommodate the needs of our guests. Every apartment at The Chambers has a balcony on which guests are more than welcome to smoke.”

For frequent flyers, who need that last cigarette before heading to the gate, the news is less good. There will be no more dedicated smoking areas at airports – a BAA spokesperson said:

“Because of the law which comes to effect in July, all traditional smoking areas are going to be removed and there will be no provisions for smokers airside, and that includes smoking in airline lounges. For example Virgin and British Airways business class lounges currently have a smoking area but these will have to go.”

Car rental companies have also jumped on the bandwagon in advertising non-smoking fleets, but most of them have been theoretically smoke-free for years. Avis says it will now “insist” rather than “request” that customers not smoke in its cars, and National Car Rental and Guy Salmon have announced that their fleets will be strictly non-smoking. However, no one can quite explain how a ban on smoking in the cars will be enforced.

When the national ban is introduced, England will join a growing number of smoke-free nations. Italy and Norway were among the first to introduce curbs, France and Lithuania have both implemented partial bans since the beginning of this year, and Finland and Iceland are due to become largely smoke-free on June 1. In Canada, the US and Australia bans are on a state-by-state basis, while Bhutan remains the only country to outlaw smoking outright.

Visit smokefreeengland.co.uk.

Report by Felicity Cousins

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