0815 GMT October 17, 2021
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England, is urging peers to support an amendment to the business and planning bill that would make all pavement licenses issued by councils subject to the condition that they are smoke-free places, theguardian.com reported.
It said on Saturday that while people who wished to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke could normally stay inside, the coronavirus outbreak meant indoor space was more restricted.
Local authorities need the powers to reflect this and give customers and families the certainty that if they go for a meal they will not be exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke, the LGA said.
It would also prevent neighboring shops, particularly in cramped inner-city areas, from being exposed to second-hand smoke, it said.
Paulette Hamilton, the vice chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, urged peers to give councils the powers to extend smoke-free areas to include pavements so “this al fresco summer can be enjoyed by everyone”.
She said, “Pavement licensing should not be a catalyst to increase smoking in public places, putting people at greater risk of ingesting second-hand smoke when they are enjoying a meal.”
The LGA said the measure would also contribute to the government’s ambition of England becoming a smoke-free nation by 2030.
The business and planning bill is due to have its third reading in the House of Lords on Monday. One of the provisions is to fast-track the process by which the likes cafes and restaurants in England can apply for temporary permission to put chairs and tables outside to allow premises to serve as many people as possible while respecting social distancing guidance.
A number of peers want the granting of pavement licenses to be subject to the condition that smoking is prohibited. The proposal is opposed by the government, which has argued that the emergency legislation should not be used as “a backdoor route” to try to ban smoking outdoors.
Putting forward the amendment this week, the Liberal Democrat peer, Lindsay Northover, pointed out that more than 85 percent of people do not smoke. She said, “The UK hospitality sector will not recover if we can’t make it an enjoyable experience for the majority of their clients.”
But Simon Clark, the director of the smokers’ group Forest, said, “There is absolutely no justification for government to intervene on public health grounds because there is no evidence that smoking outside is a significant risk to nonsmokers. Government should be reducing red tape, not adding to it with arbitrary regulations that can only hurt the hospitality industry.”
The restaurateur and chef Antony Worrall Thompson asked why on earth the Lords and LGA would want to discourage a substantial number of people from returning to cafes and restaurants? For smokers it is one of the few remaining pleasures, sitting al fresco and minding their own business.
He said allow landlords and customers to make up their own minds as it’s all a matter of choice.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said, “We will not ban outdoor smoking. Since the existing ban was introduced, businesses have invested heavily in their outdoor areas and banning outdoor smoking would lead to significant closures and job losses. Businesses should look at ways they can accommodate both smokers and nonsmokers, while smokers should exercise public responsibility and be considerate.
“We are helping our cafes and restaurants safely reopen and securing jobs by making it quicker, easier and cheaper to operate outside. The government’s priority is protecting public health against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, whilst ensuring the venues remain open and be economically sustainable.”