JD Wetherspoon closed down 15.5p at 342p after it warned a UK-wide smoking ban, including the prohibition in Scotland which takes effect this month, would hit sales and margins. The 654-strong pub group said it had decided to pull the plug on banning smoking in all its pubs. Wetherspoon reported a 21% rise in first half pre-tax profit excluding exceptionals to £27.4m on turnover up by 1% to £406.3m. But sales fell 7.6% in its 49 non-smoking pubs in the quarter to January 22. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein said Wetherspoon’s experience should not be seen as a precursor for all, given that customers currently had alternatives to non-smoking pubs. However, it downgraded leading mid-cap players from “buy” to “hold” suggesting the negative Irish experience of a smoking ban is likely to be replicated in the UK. Greene King, fell 35.5p to 706.5p, Punch Taverns, dropped 27.5p at 830.5p, Enterprise Inns, moved 14.5p lower to 890p and Mitchells & Butlers slipped 5.5p to 395.25p. Financial Times 04/03/06 page 16, page 32 (FT Markets Week – London) The Times 04/03/06 page 58 (Need to know), page 75 (Small Caps) The Daily Telegraph 04/03/06 page 8, page 30 (DataBase), page 35 (The Market)