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Smoking heads outside in England

On July 1, England joined the rest of the United Kingdom in making enclosed public areas smoke-free.

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With its low beams, wood-paneling, and original flagstones, the Queen's Head Hotel here on the edge of the stunning English Lake District is a most traditional of British village pubs. But now it's facing the biggest change in its almost 300-year history.

Along with all other English pubs, it became completely smoke-free July 1. The far-reaching new legislation bans smoking in any enclosed public space, including offices, shops, restaurants, public transport, and even work vehicles used by more than one person. The only exemptions are prisons, designated hotel rooms, and care homes.

With the change, England has become the last part of the United Kingdom (UK) to bring in a smoking ban, following Scotland in 2006 and Wales and Northern Ireland in April this year.

Martin Farr, the director of postgraduate studies in history at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, says that England's decision reflects a major long-term change in public opinion.

"It's been a very profound change," he says. "It was inconceivable 20 years ago, just as it will be inconceivable in 20 years' time that we ever sat around smoking in restaurants or pubs."

Much of the rest of the world has already introduced similar legislation. Ireland became the first country to impose a comprehensive ban in 2004, followed by New Zealand, Italy, and Sweden. Now, most of Western Europe has antismoking legislation, but only Ireland and the other parts of the UK go as far as England in making no allowance for separate smoking areas.

Concerns about freedom of choice

Not everyone in England is convinced that the move is a good idea. Back at the Queen's Head, voted Britain's best pub in 2002, landlord Chris Tomlinson says that while a ban will be welcomed by nonsmoking members of staff and some customers, he has reservations. His restaurant has been nonsmoking for eight years, but he thinks smoking could have remained in the separate bar area.

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