July 1, 2007 — -- Smokers crowded into London's pubs on Saturday night, reveling in their last chance to light up.
At 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning, England's smoking ban took effect. Puffing inside the pub can now bring a fine of 50 pounds — about $100. That goes for theaters and shopping malls as well.
England is just the latest country to curb public smoking. The rest of the United Kingdom already does, along with France, Italy, Hong Kong and Iceland.
In the United States, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Omaha are on a growing list of cities that limit where people can smoke.
British Health Secretary Alan Johnson preached the benefits of a smoke-free country, saying, "Only by tackling the causes of illnesses will we be able to improve health inequalities and save lives."
Johnson argued that the move will improve the health for thousands of people and encourage smokers to quit. But the ban has opponents smoking mad.
Rod Bullough helped coordinate a group called "Freedom2Choose," which pushed for a compromise rather than an all-out ban. Bullough, who no longer smokes himself, says the ban amounts to discrimination.
"The smokers are really being discriminated against and treated how we wouldn't treat any ethnic minority," he said. "You know, it's not illegal to smoke."
Bullough runs a business operating cigarette vending machines in bars and hotels. He says he expects a 40 percent drop in sales.
"There will be dozens of small family businesses who will be bankrupt because of it," Bullough said, pointing out that there is no compensation plan for those affected.
But Bullough may have found a way to save, and even expand his business. He's diversified and started to build outdoor smoking areas for bars and hotels — giving smokers a place to congregate, and preserving the right of Londoners to light up in good company.