A look at the possible smoking ban outside pubs and cafes

Since the smoking ban came into effect on July 1, 2007, the outdoor areas of pubs have been the natural habitat of smokers.

However, the reopening of pubs in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown has meant more people have been sitting outdoors as it’s often easier to stay socially distant and safe from Covid-19.

More pubs and cafes want the licence to put seating on pavements and expand the space they have available for customers.

This has led to concerns that the outdoor areas could be filled with smokers and drive away potential business, especially families, and make high streets a less welcoming place.

On the other hand, pubs worry that cracking down on smokers could push away another portion of their customer base.

Should smoking outside pubs and cafes be banned?

The Claim

Councils across England have called for a smoking ban on outdoor areas of pubs with the intention of helping high streets recover from the economic damage of the pandemic.

They worry it will be difficult to encourage the public to return to the high street and spend money if pubs, cafes and bars are able to expand their outdoor seating and they get packed full of smokers.

While people would normally go inside to avoid the smoke the social distancing rules designed to protect from transmission of the coronavirus make it harder for everyone to get a space indoors.

Second-hand smoke is harmful and considered unpleasant by many, making them far less likely to go out and spend money if they’re going to be stuck surrounded by smokers.

A cross-party group in the House of Lords supports the idea of banning smoking in the outdoor areas of pubs, bars and cafes, with Baroness Northover warning the government not to let an increase in eating and drinking on the pavement become an increase in public smoking.

Pubs, bars and cafes have all suffered greatly from the pandemic, as the subsequent lockdown forced them to close their doors. Now they have reopened with plenty of rules to follow which makes it harder to do business they won’t want anything to scare away potential customers.

The Counter Claim

However, the government doesn’t want to make smoking bans a condition of being granted a pavement licence.

Ministers did indicate establishments seeking to expand the amount of seating space they have on pavements would need to make “reasonable provision” for non-smokers, including some outdoor areas being designated no-smoking zones.

They also suggested local councils would have some powers to set a series of conditions which must be met before further licence to have customers sat outside is granted.

This doesn’t mean smoking on the pavement outside pubs and cafes is going to be banned, and plenty of establishments wouldn’t want it to be either.

A smoking ban might help attract more customers but it would also potentially scare away others who do want to smoke, an outcome many pubs can’t really afford.

Forcing pubs, bars and cafes not to host smokers in their outdoor seating areas is something opposed by many business owners and the government feels it is too restrictive, and it could drive away smokers.

The Facts

Lots of businesses are applying for pavement licences to allow them to set up more outdoor seating on the street, this will help keep customers safe from the coronavirus as the virus is less easily spread outdoors and there’s more space to keep people a significant distance apart.

Smoking has seen a significant dip across the UK in the wake of the pandemic, with over a million people appearing to quit the harmful habit during the lockdown and 41 per cent of those quitting saying it was a direct result of Covid-19.



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University College London reports that more Brits have quit smoking in the year to June 2020 than at any point since they started counting in 2007.

The government has warned that smoking could make you more vulnerable to the coronavirus, as smokers who have tested positive for Covid-19 were found to be twice as likely to be hospitalised than non-smokers.

A strong period of business over the summer is seen as key to saving the hospitality sector, with chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak urging the public to go out and spend their money in order to provide a much-needed boost.

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