ASH accuses hospitality industry of "crying wolf".
Hospitality trade leaders in the UK are being challenged to reveal the hard evidence on which they are basing claims that profits in pubs, restaurants and bars will plummet if smoking restrictions are implemented in public places.
On the back of significant new evidence published in today's BMJ specialist journal Tobacco Control which pours scorn on predictions that smoke-free equals economic doom and gloom, campaign group ASH say Ministers in this country have been led a merry dance by industry opponents of smoke free measures.
"Unlike in Ireland where the politicians have said smoking in all workplaces will be banned from January next year - action that will protect thousands of people from the health impacts of passive smoking - our own Government has deferred a decision on how to tackle passive smoke in this country because of worries about the impact of restrictions of the hospitality industry," said ASH's Amanda Sandford.
Those worries have now categorically been shown to be unfounded, with the charity suggesting hospitality trade leaders should be forced to provide Government with data that backs up their claims.
The research published today shows that studies claiming a negative economic impact of smoking bans all had tobacco industry backing and that most of these were subjective and of poor quality. By contrast, the independent, peer reviewed research showed no impact on takings.
"This study debunks the industry's alarmist propaganda. Policymakers should be left in no doubt that the evidence to support the trade just isn't there. For an administration that has been accused of over reliance on spin, it seems officials have been caught out at their own game," said Ms Sandford, pointing out that with more than 80% of the population favour smoke free public places. Any fall in the number of smokers removing their custom as a result of a smoking ban is more than likely to be offset by an increase in pub goers who prefer a smoke free environment.
It is more than four years since policy measures to protect people from passive smoking were first mooted. Government failure to act on advice from its own health and safety watchdog has seen it lagging miserably behind other countries where legislation has been implemented to make the vast majority of work and public places smoke free.
Almost 100 MPs have signalled to Government via an Early Day Motion (EDM 359) that the time for legislation to resolve this matter has now come.
Notes and links:
 Scollo, M. et al. Review of the quality of studies on the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry. Tobacco Control 2002; 12: 13-20
 More than 80% of people in Britain are in favour of smoking restrictions in public places, with 87% supporting restrictions in restaurants. Source: Smoking Related Behaviour and Attitudes. National Statistics, June 2002. data.gov.uk/dataset/smoking_related_behaviour_and_attitudes
 Numerous countries now have smoke-free air legislation or are in the process of implementing it.
 Over 90 MPs have signed EDM359 calling for a ban on smoking in workplaces and public places.