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Stop-smoking helplines are flooded with calls

UK Daily Mail | July 2, 2007

Record numbers of smokers are calling helplines trying to quit.

On the second day of the smoking ban, counsellors said they were overwhelmed by people trying to give up. The charity Quit reported calls to its helpline had trebled.

Government health advisers said they were braced for a rush this afternoon.

But as the last cigarettes were extinguished in pubs, bars and restaurants across the city, some protesters said they would never give in.

Nightclub owner Dave West, who has employed Tony Blair's wife Cherie Booth to challenge the ban, allowed his diners to smoke. He said: "It's like Churchill said - No surrender. I've been smoking so much I can barely breathe."

Mr West, owner of Abracadabra restaurant and the HeyJo club in Jermyn St, claims the ban breaches his human rights.

Diners in Sarastro restaurant, Drury Lane, were also being offered the opportunity to smoke in the back of a vintage Rolls-Royce, which fits up to six smokers. Other businesses reported a drop in trade or used the new regime as an excuse to revamp their premises. Some of the firms hardest hit were the hookah bars in Edgware Road.

Ibrahim El-Nour, chief executive of the Edgware Road Association, said trade was down by 70 per cent at the Miramar restaurant. Any businesses without a pavement where people could smoke would soon be "destroyed", he said.

Dave Chapman, owner of the Albion pub, in Goldsmith Row, Shoreditch, said he had brought in new measures to keep smokers happy. He has begun stocking different brands of snuff, which have proved popular with young women.

"Around 85 per cent of our customers are smokers so we have had to do a lot, including a whole redecoration," he said. "We have installed a new television, which points out of the window so they can watch it while they are outside smoking.

"The only person who has smoked inside was another landlord who wandered in with a fag by mistake."

Ruth Bosworth, director of the London charity Quit, said hundreds of callers had besieged their helpline. "It has been incredibly busy, we were expecting a rush but it has just been unbelievable.

"Lots of people planned to quit in advance but we have had many more saying they just woke up and thought: today's the day."

The Department of Health said it was too early to release details of quitters but their advisers said they had been busy. One said: "It it obviously going to be busy - people want to use the ban as a way of getting rid of the habit for good."

Not everyone agreed. Many smokers angrily huddled together outside West End bars, insisting that the ban was an example of the nanny state.

At the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, once frequented by distinguished drinkers such as Dylan Thomas and Lucian Freud, Ian Dunlop, 78, said it was an intrusion.

The former Harpers and Queen journalist, who has been smoking since he was 17, said: "I'm speechless with fury. It is an unwarranted intrusion into the personal lives of absolutely everybody.

"Everybody used to smoke and the only people who objected were the Americans. Why should a small elected body be able to decide where people can smoke?" Others fought back with a last-ditch celebration. Alastair Choat, 44, owner of the Coach and Horses and a smoker since the age of 16, said: "We had a lock-in last night with 20 of us smoking like chimneys then everyone did the can-can with a cigarette in their mouths at

6.10am.

"At 7am we had another cigarette just for a laugh. Smoking is a filthy habit but it's our choice."

Late-night drinkers were also getting used to the idea of a night out interrupted by doorstep breaks, while students suddenly found themselves without a smoking common room.

Pilar Soler 21, a Spanish management student in High Holborn, said: " It's really yucky having to stand out here in all the cigarette butts. It's cold, wet and there's traffic fumes."

From yesterday smoking wa s banned in all enclosed public spaces in England , including staff rooms, bus shelters and railway stations.

The law is aimed at reducing the impact of passive smoking, but the Government hopes that up to 600,000 people will give up. Scientists have estimated that the law could eventually save half a million people from an early death.

Ministers were last night accused of squandering more than £6million on promoting the smoking ban.

Figures showed the Government spent £5.8million on advertising, while £640,000 was lavished on a new 'No Smoking' sign - even though it is virtually identical to the old one.

Both signs depict a burning cigarette enclosed by a red circle and crossed by a red bar.

The only difference is that on the international 'No Smoking' sign the cigarette points downwards, while on the Government-commissioned design it is horizontal.

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