MP writes to Health Secretary in call for new smoking rules

By Mark Andrews | Telford | Coronavirus | Published:

An MP has written to the Health Secretary calling for an expansion of smoke-free areas should beer gardens and outdoor cafes be allowed to reopen.

Mark Pritchard

Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, has written to Matt Hancock after calling for new regulations to protect non-smokers, should outdoor seating areas at pubs, cafes and restaurants be allowed to reopen.

His call has attracted criticism from smokers' lobby group Freedom Of the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), which accused him of having a personal dislike of smoking.

But Mr Pritchard has denied he is against smoking, and said there needed to be dedicated areas for both smokers and non-smokers.

"I am not against smoking," said Mr Pritchard. "This is about non-smoking customers being able to sit outside cafes and pubs without having to run the gauntlet of secondary smoke from smokers, especially the elderly and families with young children.

"Why should non-smokers be forced to breathe in other people's smoke because Covid-19 forces more people to eat outside.

"There should be smoke-free areas where people can eat and drink. There should also be places where people can smoke freely. It's about fairness."

Forest director Simon Clark said businesses should be free to choose their own policy on smoking outside.

"Imposing new rules that may reduce the number of customers who are tempted back after the lockdown restrictions have been eased could hinder their ability to get back on their feet," he said.

"If Mr Pritchard has evidence that smoking outside poses a risk to non-smokers he should produce it.

"Smokers should obviously be considerate to those around them, but we don't need more rules to govern our behaviour."

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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