Byline: EDDIE BARNES
SMOKING is to be banned in restaurants and pubs under plans to tackle Scotland's dismal health record.
The proposals, to be announced next month by Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm, will make it an offence to light up in any public place that serves food.
One-third of the adult population of Scotland - 1.2 million people - are smokers, one of the highest percentages in Europe.
Smoking bans have already been implemented in New York and California. In the Republic of Ireland, smoking in all public places, including offices, will soon be illegal.
Health chiefs claim the crackdown is necessary to force smokers to reduce their habit and to protect non-smokers.
But the smoking lobby has vowed to fight the ban, claiming pubs and restaurants should be allowed to create smoking and non- smoking areas if they wish.
Licensees have warned that a ban would bankrupt many businesses as they would lose hundreds of customers who enjoy a smoke at their local.
Alistair Don, president of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: 'We'll lose a lot of customers. Cigarettes are not an illegal substance.
'That's the problem with a ban like this.' Simon Clark, director of smokers' rights group Forest, said: 'We support restrictions but there is no justification for a total ban.
'Pubs and restaurants are increasingly offering a choice of smoking and non-smoking areas. People must be free to choose a policy on smoking that best suits their business.' TV chef and Forest patron Antony Worrall Thompson said: 'I believe in smoking and non- smoking areas. If you don't like a place because people are smoking, don't go in.
'Banning smoking will simply result in more people standing on the pavement.
Why should we be treated as second-class citizens?' Earlier this year, pub and restaurant owners were asked to sign up to a scheme to set up smoke-free zones. …