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    Hundreds of pubs to flout smoking ban

    Image 1 of 2 Someone smoking in a pub: Hundreds of pubs to flout smoking ban Image 1 of 2 Pub landlords plan a 'day of defiance' on 1 July

    By Adam Lusher and Miles Goslett

    12:01AM BST 03 Jun 2007

    A campaign of civil disobedience against next month's smoking ban will see hundreds of pubs flouting the new laws.

    Landlords at up to 200 pubs are planning a "day of defiance" when the legislation comes into force next month, allowing customers to light up on July 1. The number involved is expected to grow and some publicans have vowed to continue to break the law beyond July 1 if customers want them to.

    The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal that, with a survey showing that three million smokers plan to defy the rules, the ban is facing three high court challenges.

    Nick Hogan, 40, of The Swan pub in Bolton, Lancashire, who has emerged as a figurehead for landlords staging days of defiance, said: "This protest is growing and we are still a month away. It is a -protest against dictatorship. It is not about being pro-smoking. It is about the freedom to choose."

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    Under the 2006 Health Act, mirroring similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, it will be illegal to smoke in virtually all enclosed public spaces in England. Breaking the law will become a criminal offence punishable by a £50 fixed penalty fine. Landlords, restaurateurs and employers failing to prevent smoking on their premises could be fined up to £2,500, but will normally avoid a criminal record.

    The Government estimates that the ban will cost £1.6 billion, but says it will bring a net benefit to the nation of up to £2.1 billion, including an annual saving of £100 million to the NHS as a result of a 1.7 per cent reduction in the number of smokers.

    About 3.7 million workplaces will be affected, including nearly 200,000 pubs, bars and restaurants. Many are investing in special "non-substantially enclosed" outdoor smoking shelters.

    Nathan Wall, the operations director of JD Wetherspoon, has estimated that his pub chain alone has spent nearly £1 million on creating smoking havens.

    The ban will also affect private members' clubs, with many of London's most exclusive -institutions planning cigar dinners as last, smoky laments before July 1. At midnight on June 30, The Naval & Military Club in St James's Square will stage a ceremonial "extinguishing of the cigars".

    "They will then be re-ignited in the courtyard," said Ian Gregory, the club secretary.

    Many are incensed by the prospect of "Orwellian" tactics to enforce the ban. The Government has given local authorities £29.5 million to prepare for July 1, and about 1,200 council employees are expected to be trained to police the ban. Ian Gray, the chief trainer for the Government, recently said that he expected "compliance officers" to take a softly, softly approach initially but admitted that "officers do not have to identify themselves when they enter premises and they can film people to gather -evidence".

    Supporters of the ban cite studies including the 2005 British Medical Journal report which concluded that 30 people in Britain die every day from passive smoking and that 617 deaths a year are related to exposure to workplace smoke.

    Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has declared the ban "a triumph for public health [which] will protect everyone from the harm of secondhand smoke". A poll, released last week by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), found that 78 per cent of people support the new rules.

    However, another survey by Alliance Pharmacy found that 17 per cent of smokers - about three million people - will continue to light up in public places.

    Prison officers are angry that their workplaces will not be smoke-free because cells are classed as homes and exempt from the ban.

    Brian Caton, the general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, revealed that representatives have voted unanimously to challenge the exemption. "If campaigning does not work, we will be seeking a judicial review," he warned.

    The Save The Shisha Campaign, meanwhile, is demanding exemptions for England's 650 shisha, water pipe or hookah bars, including 15 in Leicester where Miss Hewitt is a local MP.

    The third judicial review is being prepared by the Freedom to Choose organisation using the Human Rights Act.

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