But only 1% of pubs ban health risk
NO-SMOKING areas in pubs have more than doubled in the past seven years, says a survey.
But the Brighouse-based Federation of Licensed Victuallers says most landlords do not want an outright ban.
The Publican's Market Report 2004 said 52% of the 720 landlords polled had designated areas in dining areas or at the bar where smoking was banned.
The figure is up from 46% last year and 23% up on when the same questioned was asked in 1997.
Just 1% of publicans have gone down the route favoured by health campaigners to ban smoking throughout their premises.
Tony Payne, the federation's chief executive, endorsed the findings.
He said most landlords feared a total non-smoking ban and predicted a significant drop in takings, if one were introduced.
"Up to 25% of pubs would close," he added.
"Trade in southern Ireland has been badly hit by the smoking ban.
"If you ban smoking you may as well take away the keys to a pub because it will close down."
Instead, Mr Payne was in favour of a compromise adopted by a lot of publicans.
He and his members, who comprise self-employed licensees, want to see a ban on smoking at the bar - to protect the health of bar staff - and where meals are served.
But Mr Payne claimed changes to the licensing laws made it more difficult for publicans to create smoking and non- smoking rooms.
"In the 70s, magistrates said pubs had to get rid of walls, to open them up, so the landlord could see what was going on.
"That is why you now have pubs with just one room instead of little snugs."
Health campaigners, including Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman, want an outright ban on smoking in public places.
Cigarette smoke contains carcinogens and people can die from breathing other people's smoke.
Scholes-born entertainer Roy Castle died from lung cancer although a non-smoker.
Mr Payne, an ex-smoker, said: "I know what it's like to want a cigarette. At the same time I realise there are non-smokers. We can cater for both."
Mrs Annette Priestley, specialist tobacco advice worker for Huddersfield Central and South primary care trusts, said: "I understand publicans' concern about the loss of revenue, but it is a temporary effect when a smoking ban is imposed.
"In New York and Australia there was a slump in trade, but it went back up to what it was," she added.