A 'shop-a-smoker' hotline will launch next summer when a ban on lighting up in public is imposed in Birmingham.

The Government yesterday announced that a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places will come into effect on July 1.

It means this festive season will be the last one where Christmas and New Year pubs are full of smoke.

Once the ban comes in, anyone caught flouting the law could face a #50 on-the-spot penalty notice or a #200 court fine. A hotline will be set up for drinkers or diners to report any pubs or restaurants where the prohibition is being ignored.

Environmental officers from local councils will then swoop on the landlord or owner of the premises. Those convicted for failing to prevent customers lighting up could receive a court fine of up #2,500.

Landlords who fail to display non-smoking signs will face either a #1,000 court fine or a #200 on-the-spot penalty notice.

The cost of the "compliance telephone help line" has been included in the #1.66 billion to #1.67 billion estimated annual cost of implementing the ban.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "This is a triumph for public health and a huge step forward for health protection.

"Thousands of people's lives will be saved and the health of thousands more protected.

"Smoke-free legislation will protect everyone from the harm of second-hand smoke when working, socialising and relaxing and will provide a more supportive environment for smokers who wish to give up."

She added: "Never has a health issue created such debate in Parliament, across government, through the business and the voluntary sectors, and amongst the general public."

The smoking ban will include all pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and public buildings.

The Department of Health estimates that the total health benefits are worth between #3.374 billion and #3.78 billion to the NHS.

Similar rules have already been introduced in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, and are regarded to have been a success although some pubs have reported a downturn in sales.

The ban in Wales starts on April 2. The Government is also considering raising the age at which people can buy cigarettes from 16 to 18.

Virtually all structures with a roof, even just a canvas awning, would be subject to the ban unless half the sides were permanently open to the air.

No smoking signs would also need to be prominently displayed at each public entrance to premises.

Breaching the rules would result in a fine, with local authorities taking responsibility for enforcing the ban in buildings such as offices, licensed premises, and also most public transport.

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