FoI reveals Norwich smoking ban success

The smoking ban has mostly stubbed out cigarette fumes from public places in Norwich after new figures revealed that just seven fixed penalty notices have been issued since it came into force.

Despite some landlords blaming the no smoking legislation on a loss of trade, statistics obtained by the Evening News show that a large proportion of owners and drinkers complied with the law.

Figures gained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that ten district and borough councils across Norfolk and north Suffolk issued only 68 fixed penalty notices to people caught breaching the ban since it became law on July 1, 2007.

A further 49 verbal and written warnings were also issued and local authorities only had to take five landlords, premises owners, and taxi drivers to court – two in Great Yarmouth, one in Breckland, one in Lowestoft, and one in West Norfolk.

Pub officials and council figures hailed the success of the ban, which was met with very little resistance from smokers. Graham Freeman, chairman of the Norwich and Norfolk branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the smoking ban had not had the disastrous effect some pub, club, and bar owners had warned of. 'I think smokers did stay away at first, but non smokers found the pubs cleaner and were going in because it was a non smoking atmosphere. Smokers have since come back and use the shelters.

Some pubs do blame the smoking ban on a loss of trade, but when you look at the evidence, people have not stayed away,' he said. Council officers across Norfolk and north Suffolk made in excess of 15,000 official and covert inspections to premises over the past three-and-a-half years and have received almost �2,000 in fines and fixed penalty fees since the ban came into force.

The local authorities received 430 reports of people breaking the no smoking law between 2007 and the end of 2010. And council officers in South Norfolk and Broadland have not had to dish out a single fixed penalty notice or warning, according to the FoI responses.

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Norwich has witnessed just seven fixed penalty notices to illegal smokers since the summer of 2007.

Nick De'Ath, landlord of the Unthank Arms, in Norwich, and chairman of the city centre licensing forum, said he was not surprised by the results. 'It shows the public are a sensible bunch and abide by the law. I never expected anyone to stand up against it,' he said.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: 'Part of the routine inspection work carried out by our enforcement teams involves regular checks to ensure premises are adhering to the law.

'Our officers always work hard to build up and establish a good working relationship with premises owners and managers throughout the city which has helped with general compliance in relation to the legislation on smoking in public places.'