By DAVID MOASE
THE DAYS of smoking and drinking at the pub are numbered and smokers will have little choice but to get used to it.
Smoking will be progressively banned in pubs and clubs over the next three years, with a complete ban in indoor areas to be introduced on July 1, 2007.
From July next year the areas in licensed premises where smoking is permitted will be greatly reduced.
If smokers were looking for sympathy because of the changes they will be forced to make, there was very little on offer in Coffs Harbour yesterday.
Coffs Hotel licensee Martin Phillips says it will be up to smokers to change their habits to comply with the laws.
"We already have restrictions on smoking near the bar and in restaurant areas and the smokers have adjusted to that, so they will also have to adjust to these changes," he said. "People can't smoke in planes, buses and trains, and hotels will be another place.
"It won't be a big problem, it will just mean that if they are drinking inside they will have to take 10 or 20 paces to an outdoor area to have their cigarette.
"If they are smoking outside maybe the council will do something, like providing ash trays."
Mr Phillips said he was happy to have a beer garden, which will be one of the few areas where smoking will be permitted.
"It will be pretty hard on people who have been drinking here for 30 or 40 years and a few people may say 'shove it'," he said.
"Those people can still buy take-away drinks and on the other hand we may get some new people who are happier in a smoke-free environment."
Star FM breakfast announcer Alex Hilling has just returned from Ireland which recently-banned smoking in workplaces.
He said most bar owners claimed the ban had cost them business but he could see the bright side of the changes as well.
"Most smokers over there had an issue with the laws but I found it really sociable because when you went outside for a smoke you didn't have anything else to do but talk to the other smokers.
"People here will just have to adapt like in their workplaces."
Kerryn Allen, the senior environmental health officer with the Mid North Coast Area Health Service, thinks pub and club patrons will do their best to comply with the new laws.
"With the restrictions that have already been imposed there has been a high level of compliance and I think the community should be congratulated on how they have handled it," she said.
For Australian Hotels Association president John Thorpe the new rules are a step 'too far' and would mean a reduction in hotel jobs of about 10 per cent.
"We are particularly concerned about the 1143 country and regional hotels in NSW where the majority of our patrons are smokers," he said.
Clubs NSW CEO David Costello said he was pleased sheltered outdoor areas would be available to smokers but expressed concern at the ability of clubs to comply with some parts of the new legislation.