Only one fine in early days of smoking ban
LONDON (Reuters) - Only one person was fined for breaching the smoking ban in the two weeks after it came into force in England on July 1, the government said on Saturday.
Hamish Howitt, landlord of Blackpool's Happy Scots Bar, received the only fixed penalty notice for flouting the new law in England, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
Council officials took him to court this week, accusing him of allowing customers to light up in his pub. He pleaded not guilty at Blackpool Magistrates' Court.
Figures released on Saturday showed that 97 percent of business premises inspected during the ban's first fortnight were smoke-free.
Inspectors visited 89,000 venues, including pubs, hotels and restaurants. Compliance was even higher in smoke-free vehicles such as taxis and buses.
Officials issued 142 written warnings to businesses that failed to stop people smoking. A fifth of those inspected did not have the correct no-smoking signs in place.
Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the figures were comparable to the early days of bans in Scotland and Ireland.
"All the signs are that businesses and the public have taken the new law in their stride," she said.
The Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), a public body that advises councils on how to enforce the law, said inspectors had dispensed advice rather than fines.
"(They) have carried out their work with a light touch, an even-hand, and a commitment to advising people rather than punishing them," said its chairman Geoffrey Theobald.
Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said the ban was working because it enjoys public support.
A government-backed survey of 1,700 adults in May suggested nearly three-quarters of pub-goers support the ban.
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