Public Release: 

Partial smokefree policies will leave more than 500 pubs exempt in the North West of England

BioMed Central

The UK government proposals to make public places and workplaces smokefree in England would not apply to nearly half of all pubs and bars in the North West of England, because they do not serve food. The largest and most comprehensive study to date of the likely impact of the government White Paper 'Choosing Health' is published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health. In the most deprived areas, nearly two-thirds of all pubs and bars would be exempt, which researchers claim would worsen health inequalities due to smoking.

Karen Tocque, Richard Edwards, and colleagues from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Manchester in the UK co-ordinated surveys of 1150 pubs and bars across 14 local authorities across the North West of England, to assess whether pubs and bars in disadvantaged areas would be less likely to prepare and serve food, and more likely to allow smoking.

Tocque et al. found that 44% of the pubs and bars across a large area of North West England do not serve food and would be exempt from smokefree legislation when it comes into force. This figure is far higher than the 10-30% predicted by the UK government, confirming a preliminary study carried out earlier this year by the British Medical Association. The proportion of pubs not serving food is likely to increase to 47% once the ban is instituted, according to the BMC Public Health study.

In addition, the researchers found that the proportion of pubs and bars not serving food increases with the level of deprivation: only 21% of the pubs located in richer areas do not serve food, compared to nearly two-thirds (63%) of the pubs in the most deprived areas.

"It is highly probable that this socio-economic gradient in the location of food/non food serving establishments will also exist in other parts of England" add the authors.

The authors conclude that the impact of the partial smokefree policy would "work against the stated Government objective of reducing health inequalities due to smoking".

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The BMC Public Health article's findings are in line with the conclusions of a smaller study, published on the 19 August in the BMJ, which looked at 174 pubs in the Borough of Telford and Wrekin.

This press release is based on the article: The impact of partial smokefree legislation on health inequalities? Evidence from a survey of 1150 pubs in North West England Karen Tocque, Richard Edwards, Brenda Fullard BMC Public Health 2005,5:91 (1 September 2005)

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