The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has slammed moves to legislate on workplace smoking. Nick Bish, chief executive, said the Voluntary Charter on Smoking in Public Places should be sufficient with several thousand operators signed up.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, last week, he pointed out 44% of pub customers were smokers and reversing the tradition of standing at the bar with a pint and a pipe or cigarette would alienate many customers.

But Martin McKee, professor of public health, also writing to The Times, said the Health and Safety Executives proposals to limit workplace smoking would not hurt the hospitality industry given that only a minority of the British population smoke. He pointed out that a similar policy in California, USA, led to an increase in bar revenues.