Britain's trade unions have called on the government to resist vested interest lobbying and ban smoking in all workplaces, including all pubs and clubs, by April 2006.
In its submission to the government consultation on restricting smoking at work, the TUC says that anything other than a total ban would threaten the lives of hundreds of workers a year and the health of thousands more.
Over 600 people die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke at work, and second- hand smoke is the second most common asthma trigger in the workplace.
The TUC claims that research has shown that a complete ban would not harm business and warns that proposals to allow smoking in pubs not serving prepared food, or in pubs with designated smoking areas, would lead to a 'confusing mess', harming staff and customers.
The submission also argues that a decision to ban smoking at work would have strong public support. Over three-quarters of the British public now support a ban covering all workplaces, a higher level than in Ireland before the introduction of its smoking ban.
Public support in Ireland rose to 96 per cent a year after workplaces became smoke-free.
But a MORI poll last year found that a third of Britons actively oppose a blanket ban on smoking. While almost everybody said they would like to see smoking banned in all hospitals and clinics, only around half thought that this should be extended to pubs and nightclubs.
More than eight out of ten Britons said they support a ban in shopping centres, while over three-quarters want cafes and restaurants to be smoke-free.
"It's time for the government to be brave," said TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, Roger McKenzie.
"The public wants a ban, the health arguments are overwhelming and all that is holding government back seems to be a reluctance to say no to business lobbying or risk being called nannies.
"The confusing attempt at a compromise that depends on whether pubs serve prepared food has not stood up to public debate, and should be quietly dropped. But the government should resist the industry lobby's alternative proposal for smoking areas in all pubs, as this would leave workers and the non-smoking public at risk."