Many pubs would stop serving food to get round the Government’s proposed smokefree law, according to the first national survey of publicans on the issue. The survey was commissioned by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Results show that the proportion of exempt pubs in England and Wales could rise by a third – from 29 per cent at present to 40 per cent – if the Government proceeds with a smokefree law that excludes pubs that do not serve prepared food. In the poorest areas, the proportion could be as high as 50 per cent.

The findings – released on the closing day of the Government’s consultation on smokefree workplaces – confirm fears that a partial ban would widen the health gap between rich and poor. The results put great pressure on the Government to drop the proposed exemptions from the smokefree legislation.

Independent survey firm IFF Research Ltd surveyed 1252 publicans, landlords and managers across England and Wales, to gauge the proportion of pubs currently serving food, as well as publicans’ future plans with regard to serving food once smokefree legislation is introduced.

The survey confirms that publicans would stop serving food in order to allow smoking, and shows that the situation would be particularly bad in poor areas. The proportion of exempt pubs in the most deprived areas could rise from 41 per cent currently to 50 per cent after the introduction of legislation.

Pub workers in deprived areas are already more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke. Sixty-two per cent of surveyed pubs in the most deprived areas currently allow smoking throughout the premises – compared with 26 per cent in the most affluent areas.

Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, Professor Alex Markham, says: “Going smokefree will save lives. It will protect the health of workers, and evidence shows that it will help smokers quit.

“But this survey provides strong evidence that a partial smokefree law would widen the health gap between rich and poor.

“By introducing comprehensive smokefree legislation the Government would demonstrate that it is truly serious about addressing health inequalities.”

ASH Director Deborah Arnott says: “This survey shows that the Government is threatening to undermine the enormous public health benefits of its smokefree legislation by exempting many pubs and clubs. These will be heavily concentrated in the poorest communities across the country – areas generally represented by Labour MPs. And of course, exemptions would leave many workers at most risk from the damage caused by secondhand smoke.

“This research should be the final evidence the Government needs to drop the exemptions and get on with bringing in a comprehensive smokefree law.”


For media enquiries, please contact Nick Stewart at the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8317 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059 or Ian Willmore at ASH on 020 7739 5902 or 07887 641344.


The survey was conducted by independent research agency IFF Research among a representative sample of 1,252 publicans and managers of pubs and bars throughout England and Wales. The fieldwork took place between the 27 July and 11 August 2005 from IFF’s central London telephone interviewing centre. Full results of the survey are available on request.

The survey’s finding that 29 per cent of pubs do not currently serve prepared food is at the very top end of the estimate in the Government’s ‘Choosing Health’ White Paper (10 – 30 per cent). In the poorest areas, 41 per cent of pubs do not currently serve prepared food.

The Government’s proposed smokefree legislation is part of its Health Improvement and Protection Bill, due to be laid before Parliament in November this year. Currently, the Government plans to exempt pubs that do not serve prepared food from the smokefree legislation.

A recent poll by ASH and Cancer Research UK showed that 73 per cent of people in England and Wales support a law to make all enclosed workplaces – including all pubs and all restaurants – smokefree. The poll was conducted in July by BMRB.

Owners and managers of smokefree pubs are available for interview across England and Wales. Please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8317.

Fiona Castle – widow of late entertainer Roy Castle – will join Cancer Research UK at 10 Downing Street at 11:00 hrs on Monday 5 September to present over 15,000 signatures calling for comprehensive smokefree legislation. For further information, please contact Nick Stewart at the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8317.

Regional breakdown of results:

 Currently do not serve foodClaim smoking will be allowed and will not serve food after proposed legislation+/- %
East Midlands32%36%+4
North East41%50%+9
North West41%45%+4
South East19%30%+11
South West20%33%+13
West Midlands29%43%+14
Yorkshire and Humberside38%57%+19

Current situation with regard to smoking in pubs:

RegionSmoking throughout (%)Separate areas for smoking and non smoking (%)Separate rooms for smoking and non smoking (%)No smoking at bar only (%)No smoking throughout (%)
East Midlands4143881
North East44369111
North West5535361
South East46401131
South West4439105
West Midlands4243781
Yorks & Humberside4933963