Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cigarette Issue Gets Good Airing

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cigarette Issue Gets Good Airing

Article excerpt

Byline: By Beth Neil

It's A busy lunchtime in the North East's biggest shopping centre.

The floors are freshly swept, there's not a spot of litter in sight and, thanks to the smoking ban that came into force at the start of the year, the air is fresh.

But one person is threatening to destroy the cleanliness with a single puff.

A young man holds a cigarette in his mouth and his lighter is hovering dangerously close.

Hold it right there! Thankfully we get there just in the nick of time.

The smoker in question is 20-year-old Newcastle barman Steve Wheatcroft.

He has a 20-a-day habit and doesn't intend to let a few "No smoking" signs railroad him into quitting.

"I've been smoking for eight years and I don't think I'm able to give up now. I think it's stupid trying to ban it everywhere and it's unfair to put smokers under pressure like this.

"I didn't actually realise that the MetroCentre had banned it. It's just crazy. The place is so big it takes you ages to get to the nearest exit. It's a good five-minute walk.

"I know you could go into one of the restaurants or cafes but you'd have to buy something and all I want is a cigarette.

"I can't believe they're trying to ban it in pubs now. I know they've done it over in Ireland so I've got no intention of going over there now."

Jane Holmes, PR Manager at the MetroCentre, assures us that incidents like that are rare occurrences.

"Most people know about the ban and take notice of it. Very occasionally our security guards have had to ask someone to extinguish their cigarette. Then they'll call for a cleaner straight away.

"We have had letters from people who would prefer to smoke. But we've also had a lot of letters saying how great it is. People don't often put pen to paper to praise you so it means a lot."

Security guard June Price confirms the success of the ban.

"Since it started there have only been a couple of people we've had to ask to put out their cigarettes. Everyone seems to accept it."

There are smoking shelters outside the store, although Jane says there's hardly ever anyone in them.

One person who is making use of them is 24-year-old Gateshead mum Sarah Metcalfe who is with her son Jack, two. She has smoked about 20 a day since the age of 13, and is more than happy to step outside for one.

"I think it's a good idea, even though I'm a smoker myself," she says. "I think it would be better if they had designated areas inside so you didn't have to trawl round looking for an exit, though.

"But as for banning smoking everywhere, I think that's going too far. "I do feel guilty for smoking and I'm planning to give up. It's difficult, though, because my friends smoke and when you have a drink it's really hard not to light up." Earlier this month it emerged that the Government is planning a legal crackdown on smoking, following the success of bans in Ireland, California and New York. …

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