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Smoking ban ignites passions

Pro-smoking groups fear smoking could be banned in open-air parks.
Pro-smoking groups fear smoking could be banned in open-air parks.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- New York's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants has been welcomed by some and spurned by others.

The ban, introduced on Sunday, is designed to protect workers in the city's 13,000 bars and restaurants that have previously allowed smoking.

It outlaws smoking in bars and restaurants, with very few exceptions, and stiff fines. The penalty for a first-time offense begins at $200, and businesses caught repeatedly allowing smoking run the risk of being shut down.

Smoking bans in New York offices already existed, but the latest move could lead to even more "draconian" moves such as smoking bans in open-air parks, pro-smoking lobby group Forest told CNN.

With various smoking bans in place from Sweden to South Africa, Australia to South Korea, Forest advises travelers to respect the rules and culture of the countries they visit.

Forest director Simon Clark described the New York ban as akin to the smoking ban on planes introduced several years ago.

"For a while, some airlines banned smoking and some didn't, so the business traveler had a choice. Now, people no longer have that choice on planes.

"We want to maintain the choice for business travelers," he said.

While France has harsher laws than the UK, many Parisians "simply ignore the rules," Clark said.

Ireland is due to introduce a smoking ban in bars and restaurants from January 1, 2004 -- a move seen by Forest as difficult to enforce in a country with a "relaxed attitude to smoking and drinking."

"Perhaps it will work in Dublin, but in the further out places it will be near impossible," Clark said.

Anti-tobacco group ASH, welcomed the Irish move, with director Clive Bates saying it allowed "people to earn their living without working shrouded in clouds of toxic and cancer-inducing fumes."

Stiff anti-smoking laws are in effect in California, while hundreds of smaller cities and towns around the United States have banned smoking in restaurants.

While the bans have led to fears that bars will go out of business as smokers stay away, that has not happened in California. ASH said there was no evidence to suggest businesses would suffer if bans were introduced in the UK.

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