A report by the Royal Society for Public Health yesterday called for the smoking ban to be extended to some outside areas, including those around bars and restaurants. M&C asked leading operators and commentators to give use their opinion.

Peter Furness-Smith, joint managing director of McMullen, said: “”How disappointing but not really surprising as bureaucrats love banning things - it gives other bureaucrats something to do.

“The original premise of the smoking ban was to protect those working in confined spaces. There really can’t be much justification on that basis for extending the ban to outside areas. A lot of pubs and restaurants don’t allow smoking in their outside areas depending on their customer base.

“This is called the free market working by outlets differentiating their offers. Customers and operators being able to choose - now that’s a novel idea and something else that bureaucrats don’t value.”

Scott Waddington, chief executive of SA Brain, said: “We have embraced the smoking ban for interior spaces and believe that our customers on the whole believe that this has been a positive piece of legislation. However, we do not believe that our customers would request that the ban be extended to outside spaces with the exception possibly of certain site specific circumstances where there is more restricted space near to e.g. food or kids areas where smoke could be a nuisance – but there would always be alternative areas for people to smoke.”

Shepherd Neame’s director of retail and tenanted operations Nigel Bunting said: “The introduction of the smoking ban posed a number of significant challenges to Shepherd Neame, but also substantial opportunities. We invested more than £3 million in providing facilities for smokers, which resulted in some extremely innovative uses of outside space. Inside, our pubs have become cleaner, fresher environments for all our customers. We already take great care to protect our staff and non-smokers from second hand smoke, and don’t see any need for the smoking ban to be extended.”

Steve Ball, chief executive of the Columbo Group, said: “On a personal level I was quite pleased when the smoking ban came in. I spent a lot of time in nightclubs and didn’t want to be breathing in other people’s smoke. That decision was about respecting people’s choice but this would do the opposite. It’s the kind of the thing the phrase ‘nanny state’ was invented for and I hope it is recognised that this would be crossing a line.”

Christopher Snowden, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “I don’t think the Government will take it too seriously, but it seems likely that there will be an ongoing campaign to ban smoking in outdoor places in the years ahead. The public health lobby has a habit of screaming until it gets what it wants. If so, the consequences will be devastating for the hospitality industry in general and for the pub sector in particular. Pubs have never recovered from the indoor smoking ban, but smokers still go to pubs - albeit less frequently - and smoke outdoors. If they are stopped from even doing that, they will leave for good and the pub industry might as well throw in the towel.”

A spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association said:“Whilst pubs recognise that the 2007 smoking ban is here to stay, there is no push to prevent smokers from smoking in outside spaces. Most customers recognise that the law works well as it is, and protects staff and smokers from second hand smoke.

“When the ban came into force, as lot of thought and debate went into the rules regarding outside spaces, including how open they should be in order for the legislation to achieve its objectives. With the law in place for just eight years, we shouldn’t seek to ‘unpick’ these arrangements. This is especially so, given that pubs invested many millions of pounds in order to provide outside smoking areas, in an effort to satisfy as many customers as possible.”

The RSPH outlined the reasoning behind its plan in a report, which said: “This would significantly reduce the convenience of smoking, with the potential to encourage a greater number of smokers to move to safer sources of nicotine. It would also reduce the visibility of cigarette usage and serve to further denormalise smoking, thus potentially discouraging people, particularly children, from beginning to smoke in the future.

“A similar approach has been taken by several cities around the world with considerable success. New York, for example, banned smoking in doorways to bars, cafes and restaurants and in Central Park, which, alongside other initiatives, contributed to the impressive decline in smoking rates from 22% to 15% in just 10 years. Similarly, Hong Kong introduced a smoking ban in outside areas including public parks and beaches contributing to a 7% reduction in smoking rates between 2002 and 2012.

“The smoking ban has already been extended in Bristol. In 2015, with a public approval rating of 61%, Bristol became the first UK city to prohibit smoking in prominent outdoor spaces.”