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“What this is trying to do is force it on you,” Paul Thompson, a resident of Beck Row near RAF Mildenhall, said about the potential nationwide smoking ban in 2007. “It’s not freedom of choice.”

“What this is trying to do is force it on you,” Paul Thompson, a resident of Beck Row near RAF Mildenhall, said about the potential nationwide smoking ban in 2007. “It’s not freedom of choice.” (Ben Murray / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — American Air Force spouse Jamie Evers has an interesting position in the debate over smoking in public places in England.

An off-and-on smoker for 15 years (now three weeks on the wagon), she backs an English bill currently in Parliament to ban smoking in public areas by next year. Though she has enjoyed a Marlboro or two over a pint at a pub in the past, she doesn’t like the smell of cigarette smoke and supports a measure to make it an outdoors-only practice by 2007, she said.

“To be quite honest, indoor smoking has never been something I’ve been fond of,” Evers said.

Smoking in a pub or restaurant “is a nice thing to be able to do, but I definitely think it’s better not to be able to,” she said.

On Feb. 14, the British House of Commons voted to pass a public health bill banning smoking in all “enclosed public areas” in the country, said a spokeswoman for the English Department of Health, which sponsored the bill.

If it makes it through the House of Lords in coming months without major problems — which is likely, according to the health department spokeswoman — by mid-2007, England could follow European countries such as Ireland, Italy and Scotland with a total indoor smoking ban.

People will still be able to smoke at home and in military barracks, prisons and hotel rooms, but traditional smoking venues such as clubs and bars would become nonsmoking venues.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for local pub managers, who say the smoking ban will devastate their businesses by carving off part of a treasured piece of British culture: the hazy local pub.

“That’s what people like, to have a smoke while they’re drinking,” said Mandy Houghton, manager of The Kings Head near RAF Mildenhall.

Of her potential business after the ban, Houghton said it’s “going to fall through the floor.”

“People will tend to stay home now,” she said.

Davida Brown, manager of The Globe pub in Mildenhall, had similar thoughts about the impact of a ban, saying small establishments may face closure if their regulars shorten their visits to the pub.

“It makes you wonder what you’re going to do” in 2007, she said.

Despite English pub owners’ fears, studies in the United States have shown that business in bars and restaurants did not decline after smoking bans, according to news reports. Smoking has been banned in such cities as New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Regardless of the economic impact, Air Force anti-smoking counselors say the health benefits of banning smoking from public venues are myriad.

“I have to say, it worked in the U.S.,” said Tech. Sgt. David Moore, a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor at RAF Lakenheath. “It took about five or 10 years, but it cut [smoking] down drastically.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes continues to decline and more adults have successfully quit smoking than remain smokers.

The study estimates that 20.9 percent — 44.5 million people — are smokers, down from 21.6 percent in 2003 and 22.5 percent in 2002, according to a November 2005 CDC release. The release did not specifically link the decline in smoking to public smoking bans, though.

Propagating a shift in cultural attitudes can be a frustrating process that’s “never liked initially,” but the negative health effects of second-hand smoke are well-documented, Moore said.

And, for smokers trying to quit, traditional English hangouts such as bars, pubs and clubs can be trigger areas that can tempt them to have a drag, Moore said.

“We definitely hear that,” Moore said, adding that he treats an average of 25-30 people a month in his smoking cessation class.

Senior Airman Misty Horton, a tobacco cessation counselor and former smoker at RAF Alconbury, said she found it hard to go to smoky bars when she was trying to kick the habit.

“When I was trying to quit, yes, it was rather difficult,” Horton said. “The social [areas] are the hardest ones for people to stay quit.”

For servicemembers in the United Kingdom, the new law may actually end up looking much like the policy on tobacco use they work under. The policy “prohibits indoor tobacco use in all Air Force facilities,” according to Air Force Instruction 40-102.

Smoke-free venues are familiar to many Americans, which might help pick up any lag in business at small bars and restaurants once the ban hits, some servicemembers said.

Moore, who has a daughter, said he would “definitely go out more, without question,” if venues around him were nonsmoking.

“I think that once it goes into effect, a lot of people will go out more,” Evers said.

By the numbers

The top five cigarette-smoking countries in the world

(with number of cigarettes consumed in 1998):

China (1,643 billion)

United States (451 billion)

Japan (328 billion)

Russia (258 billion)

Indonesia (215 billion)

Worldwide, more than 15 billion cigarettes are smoked per day.

Source: World Health Organization, The Tobacco Atlas, 2002

In the U.S.

Percentage of adults who smoked

In 1965: 41.9 percent

In 1985: 29.9 percent

In 1995: 24.6 percent

In 2005: 20.9 percent (23.4 percent of men, 18.5 percent of women)

Smokiest state: Kentucky (27.6 percent of adults)

Least smoky state: Utah (10.4 percent of adults)

Number of deaths linked to smoking annually: 438,000

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Fact Sheet, December 2005

In Great Britain

Percentage of adults (16 and older) who smoke: 25

Percentage who smoked in 1974: 45

Percentage who smoked in 1982: 35

Age group with the most smokers: 20-34

Highest average number of cigarettes smoked per day: 18 for men 50-59, 15 for women 50-59

Average number per day for all adult smokers: 15 for men, 13 for women

Adult smokers who would like to quit (2003): 66 percent

Source: National Statistics Online (www.statistics.gov.uk)


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