A SPIN-doctor is heading an anti-smoking alliance which aims to follow Ireland and New York and push smokers out of pubs and restaurants in Macclesfield, Wilmslow and the surrounding area.
Jill Hulme, whose PR company Baxter Hulme already has substantial contracts promoting the NHS, is the first chairman of the East Cheshire Smoke Free Alliance.
The group, which includes East Cheshire Primary Care Trust, Macclesfield Hospital, the borough council and some local voluntary groups like Help the Aged, has put the promotion of smoke free bars, clubs and pubs and protecting people from second-hand smoke at the top of its agenda.
Jill Hulme says she looked forward to the alliance having a bigger and bigger influence. She says: "As a local employer in Macclesfield and with a company doing work in the health sector, it is a way of giving something back to the community."
The man behind the campaign, co-ordinator Mike Bridges, claims public support for restricting smoking in public is increasing nationally, with 88 per cent wanting to see it banned in restaurants, although nearly half the population still feel smokers should be able to smoke in their local pub.
The alliance is partly funded by the Government with other funds from the NHS and Mike claims the alliance is not anti-smoker - it simply wants to help and support smokers in giving up.
Despite that, the alliance will be targeting second-hand smoke locally by getting more public places to ban smokers, putting their message across that passive smoking is dangerous and cracking down on cigarette buying by under-16s.
Over the coming months they will be trying to persuade the people of Macclesfield to support a ban on smoking wherever they shop, work, drink or eat.
Mike admits that persuasion may not be enough and they would like to see the law changed to have smokers banned from lighting up in every enclosed public space. He points out that the hospitality business is slow to go smoke-free when not forced to do so and cites, with approval, the decisions in New York and San Francisco to use the law to give their bars and restaurants no choice but to go smoke free.
One of the prime purposes of the alliance is promoting the Government's Big Smoke Debate - a national initiative with a north-west section - as a way of raising awareness, asking whether smoking in public places should be banned.
Although they clearly feel the answer to that question is yes, anyone anxious to defend their right to smoke a cigarette or cigar in their local pub - or to stop their fellow regulars from doing so - can either log on to the website www.bigsomokedebate.com/northwest or write in to free newspapers the Government are planning to distribute to households across East Cheshire.
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