Plans to ban smoking in pubs that serve food will discriminate against people living in the North and Midlands doctors’ leaders say.
The British Medical Association warned that plans to ban smoking only in pubs that serve food could lead to further health inequalities across England.
It studied 29 areas and found nine of the 10 with the most non-food pubs were in northern England or the Midlands.
The BMA contacted a sample of metropolitan, city and London borough councils in England for the survey, asking them how many pubs in their areas did not prepare and serve food on their premises.
Of the 29 areas that responded, they found wide variation, which appeared to be regional.
In Leeds, for example, 88% of pubs were aimed at drinkers and not diners, but 95% of pubs in Bromley, London, would have to introduce a ban.
The BMA says its survey undermined the government’s claims that only 10-30% of pubs do not serve prepared food.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of science and ethics, questioned how the government planned to implement its smoke-free proposals without knowing the full situation.
“Just as the burden of smoking falls heavily on the poorest, so does the burden of passive smoking,” she said.
“While the professional classes work in smoke-free offices, low-paid, casual and service workers work in smoky environments, risking lung cancer to make a living.”
The White Paper on Public Health, published last November, also plans to make most enclosed public areas, including offices and factories, smoke-free.
Ian Foulkes, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: “We believe that the only method of protecting workers in indoor environments from the effects of tobacco is for all workplaces to be smoke-free.
“It is also our view that the government’s proposals will be totally unenforceable.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The proposal in the White Paper to make smoke-free bars and pubs that prepare and serve food was based on many factors.
“Public opinion was crucial to the decision and showed that the public was far less supportive of measures to make all bars and pubs smoke-free.
“We will be consulting further on the proposal in the White Paper before legislation goes to Parliament, and we will look carefully at all the evidence put forward – including that from the British Medical Association.”