All enclosed public places and workplaces in the UK will become smokefree from 1st July 2007, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced today.

Gay venues have already told PinkNews.co.uk that they feel they can cope with a ban, which will be introduced in Wales and Northern Ireland in April 2007 and in England in July 2007.

A spokesman from Soho Clubs and Bars who own some of the West End’s top gay attractions said: “Soho Clubs and Bars feel that the venues within our estate offer such high quality food, beverage and entertainment that we’re best placed to weather any difficulties that might arise from this new legislation.”

Smoking will be outlawed in 124,000 pubs and clubs across England. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair and 12 other Cabinet colleagues voted for a full ban on smoking in public places.

MPs voted for all pubs to be included in the ban, by 453 votes to 125 ?a majority of 328.

The NHS estimate that 12,000 gay men die from smoking related diseases every year, much more than die from HIV/AIDs.

Chris Bryant is a gay Labour MP for Rhonda, he voted for the ban: “I’m delighted!” he exclaimed to PinkNews.co.uk. “All the statistics show that gay men are more than twice as likely to smoke than straight men.”

“I’ve a lot of gay friends that smoke and they always say to me that it will easier to give up if they weren’t allowed to smoke in pubs or clubs.”

“Too many people die early and it’s great that this may be able to stem this.”

Scotland introduced a ban in public places last Spring. The Republic of Ireland has already banned smoking in all workplaces, including pubs since 2005.

Announcing the date for the implementation of the ban, Ms 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. Smokefree legislation will protect everyone from the harm of secondhand smoke when working, socialising and relaxing and will provide a more supportive environment for smokers who wish to give up.

“The scientific and medical evidence is clear – secondhand smoke kills, causing a range of serious medical conditions including lung cancer, heart disease, and sudden infant death syndrome “SIDS” in children.

This legislation will help to prevent the unnecessary deaths caused every year from secondhand smoke, and recognises that there is absolutely no safe level of exposure.

“Where countries have gone smokefree the impact on the health of staff has been immediate and positive. And the experience of going smokefree in Ireland, Scotland, New York and elsewhere has been good for business.”

The Health Secretary also launched a new Smokefree England campaign which will help the country’s 3.7 million businesses including nearly 200,000 pubs, bars, restaurants and other leisure outlets prepare for the implementation of the legislation.