Smokers' group hits out at Shropshire MP's call for beer-garden restrictions if lockdown eased
A pro-smoking pressure group says owners of pubs and cafes should be free to decide their own policy on outdoor smoking, if they are allowed to partially reopen.
Simon Clark, of Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), was responding to calls from Shropshire MP Mark Pritchard, who said new rules should be reintroduced should the Government allow beer gardens and seating areas outside restaurants and cafes to reopen.
Mr Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, said it would also be necessary to consider the safety of non-smokers if it was decided that outside areas at pubs, restaurants and cafes next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce his plans for easing the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday.
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Mr Pritchard said: "If cafes, restaurants and pubs with outside areas open next week, then new rules on smoking in external public areas should be introduced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
"Outside seating should not be dominated by smokers exposing customers to secondary smoke."
But Mr 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."
Mr Clark added that in the past Mr Pritchard had expressed a personal dislike of breathing in cigarette smoke.
"It is quite wrong for Mr Pritchard to use the Covid crisis as an opportunity to tackle one of his pet hates, especially when there is no risk to the public."