Smoke-free eating and drinking

Do you enjoy eating in a smoky atmosphere? If not, customers in restaurants and pubs can now make their views known using "calling cards" after their meal.

Government plans, announced last November, to ban smoking in restaurants and most pubs have sparked a fierce debate amongst those who enjoy going out.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Smoke Free Eating and Drinking Award Scheme, launched in the New Year, is well under way to promote smoke-free eating and drinking in Hampshire and now customers can make their views known using "calling cards" after a meal.

These can be obtained from local council offices, library or doctors surgery and handed to the landlord after your meal. One card says "Thank you for being smoke-free. It made my meal even more enjoyable." The other states "Thank you for a lovely meal. It would have been even more enjoyable if it had been …smoke-free."

Landlords are understandably concerned about the effect going smoke-free will have on their business and they need to know if you prefer a smoke-free venue so you don't have to breathe in other people's smoke and go home with smelly clothes and hair.

Project worker for the scheme, Jill Wilson, said: "The landlord of the King Rufus in Chandlers Ford who recently went smoke free is delighted with the outcome. He tells me he's attracted lots of new custom from locals who used to avoid pubs when they were smoky, and the regulars who do smoke haven't deserted him as he feared they might - they're actually pleased that they're smoking less!"

The pub group JD Wetherspoon has also decided not to wait for lengthy legislation and is banning smoking in some of its 650 pubs by May, with the rest to follow suit within a year. They have recognized that an increasing percentage of the population is giving up smoking and droves of people are staying away from pubs and restaurants because they are too smoky.

The Scheme is run by Smoke Free Hampshire and Isle of Wight, an alliance between the NHS and local authorities to reduce the impact of tobacco. Venues receiving the award will benefit from publicity, a sign for their door and inclusion in a smoke free guide.