LITTLE gets people more animated than the smoking debate, and today (No Smoking Day) will see all the prejudices on public display.

Whatever your individual viewpoint, though, there's bound to be a certain amount of sympathy for pubs which now face a complete smoking ban as part of national moves to make public places smoke-free.

Bolton Licensees' Alliance chairman Tony Longmire wants the Government to think again. He says that pub landlords should be able to make individual decisions about their pubs and smoking. He points out that pubs which are just one room are at a distinct disadvantage, and that pub trade generally is likely to be hit.

Unusually for a nation which prides itself on tolerance in most other matters, we tend to take a radical view on smoking. We have turned smokers into the new lepers and regard them as social low-life.

When it comes to spending time where they want to, pub-goers tend to vote with their feet. If they don't like a particular venue, for whatever reason, they go elsewhere.

In spite of the acknowledged dangers of passive smoking, it seems like taking a hammer to crack a nut to insist that no-one smokes in this particular social environment. In time, smokers will congregate only in smokey pubs, and the rest of the population will sup their pints in cleaner air. The choice is theirs.

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