Is there a case for an outdoor smoking ban?

With the whole nature of outdoor dining revolutionised in the last year, questions have been raised about the issue of smoking in outdoor dining areas – this is due to increased visibility with more people sharing the outdoor space as well a greater self-awareness about our health and our families health.

Five local authorities have already banned smoking in pavement pubs, cafes and restaurants with others looking to follow suit showing initiative in the government strategy to make England smoke free by 2030.

This isn’t an unprecedented issue; there was an unsuccessful attempt last summer to push through an amendment to legislation in the House of Lords to make pavements smoke-free zones showcasing that this has been a concern bubbling under the surface for quite some time.

On top of those 5 councils who have already made the smoke-free move, Oxford is also planning to follow suit as part of a major strategy aiming to make the county smoke-free by 2025 – 5 years before the government plan for the whole country.

The original ban of smoking in indoor spaces sparked a big drop in tobacco use in the UK and the concerns are that with outdoor dining becoming the preferred seating area, smoking in public places will become the norm causing those who have stopped smoking to be tempted to return to their old habit.

Surveys show that 2/3 of the public want the areas outside pubs and cafes to be smoke-free stating that they feel safer outside rather than inside and that this should not force them to sit alongside smokers and inhale tobacco.

However, from the publicans opinion they have had enough change this year and, with the staff having to police their customers into keeping in line with Covid regulations already, this new initiative would only add more stress to what was once a more informal role.

In addition, when the indoor smoking ban occurred a lot of the trade found it was their toughest time to date with a lot of customers not returning and the venues having to rebrand and adapt to stay profitable. However, this was achieved for the majority showing that change is not always a bad thing and that this new initiation might just encourage another new demographic to walk through the door.

Although a smoke-free venue might mean change, perhaps it could also mean opportunity.