A MAJOR union has joined a campaign to ban smoking in pubs, clubs and leisure venues.

And their intervention has been welcomed by Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, who is spearheading the crusade.

The call to the government came from the GMB union on International Workers Memorial Day.

The union wants Prime Minister Tony Blair to follow the Irish government and ban smoking in England and Wales's pubs, clubs, casinos, betting shops, restaurants and other leisure industry venues.

Mr Sheerman has started his own campaign to ban smoking in public places and has called on parliament to support a ban.

He launched an internet poll in January seeking people's views on making offices, factories, bars and restaurants smoke-free.

And about 57% thought there should be a complete ban on smoking in public places.

More than three-quarters (77%) have voted in favour of a ban or restriction.

And less than a quarter (23%) said smoking should be allowed in all public places.

Mr Sheerman said: "I'm really heartened by the GMB's views.

"The union is gradually realising that health in the workplace is very important and that people do suffer very bad effects from passive smoking.

"I think the battleground is going to be drawn on the protection of workers and can we get a smoke-free environment in leisure venues?"

The GMB has launched a register of members who feel that they have been adversely affected by passive smoking in their workplaces.

It will help them with any future personal injury claims against an employer who has not taken steps to deal with passive smoking in the workplace.

Make Ainsley, GMB casinos organiser, said: "My members are fed up with breathing in customers' second-hand smoke.

"The government's voluntary Code of Practice has utterly failed to protect them from daily exposure to the risks from passive smoking.

"The GMB wants the government to follow the Irish government's bravery and ban smoking altogether in all Britain's leisure venues."