9:10am Saturday 18th February 2012
By Amanda Williams
Not one person has been fined in Oxford for flouting the ban on smoking in pubs in almost five years since it came into force.
Oxford City Council has admitted it does not carry out routine checks specifically to check for smokers ignoring the rules, as it was not a priority. The ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants came into force on July 1, 2007.
The council employs 19 environmental health officers who, among a range of other duties, have the power to enforce the ban.
Last year just 10 service requests, which ask officers to look into reports of smoking in premises where it is banned, were received by the council.
Ian Wright, the council’s health development service manager, said this indicated the ban had worked.
He said: “Enforcing the smoking ban is not a corporate priority and we have no staff who only carry out this work. The funding for enforcing and promoting the Health Act 2006 that introduced the smoking ban was stopped 12 months after the Act came into force and the part-time post we had was cut.
“However, the majority of the officers who visit commercial premises, including myself, are authorised to enforce the Health Act 2006 in the same way that they are authorised under numerous other pieces of legislation.”
He added: “We do not carry out any routine visits to solely check for compliance with the Health Act 2006. However, when an officer visits a restaurant to check for food hygiene, they will also carry out other compliance checks under different legislation at the same time.”
The maximum fine for smoking in a smoke-free place is £200, or £30 if the penalty is paid within 15 days.
Managers of smoke-free premises can be fined up to £2,500 for failing to prevent smoking, while and the maximum fine for failing to display no-smoking notices is £1,000.
Michael Berry runs the Turf Tavern, in Bath Place, with wife Stella.
Mr Berry, who has been a publican since 1975, said he felt that staff and landlords were vigilant enough without the help of the city council.
He said: “We don’t have a problem with it here. Our outside area is warm and covered. But I do know of a landlord who has had to throw people out for lighting up at the bar.”
Paul Dixon, one of the managers at the Jericho Tavern, in Walton Street, said the pub did not have a problem with people flouting the ban.
He said: “We’ve got a nice, heated outside area, which is undergoing a refurbishment at the moment.”
Simon Clark, of smokers’ rights campaign group Forest, said many pub users and landlords would welcome an amendment in the law to allow for ‘smoking rooms’.
He added: “We would argue that just because there’s a high compliance rate doesn’t mean that it’s hugely popular. People don’t want to break the law or get their landlord into trouble.”
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