A pub landlord has become the first person to be summonsed to appear in court for flouting the ban on smoking in public places in England.
Hamish Howitt is being prosecuted for allowing smokers to light up in his pub in Blackpool, Lancashire. Council officers served seven separate summonses on Mr Howitt last night at the resort's Happy Scots Bar.
Mr Howitt has been a staunch critic of the ban since it came into effect on 1 July and has even set up a political party named Fight Against Government Suppression (Fags).
Owners and managers of pubs, clubs and cafes are legally bound to enforce the ban and face fines of up to ?2,500 if they fail to do so.
Mr Howitt, from Scotland, could face a total bill of up to ?17,500 if he is convicted of the offences. He said he is prepared to go to jail rather than pay any penalty and has vowed to take the matter to the Court of Human Rights.
"I don't incite smoking in my pub as our karaoke bar next-door is completely non-smoking," he said. "I'm not pro-smoking, just pro-freedom." He added: "Having a pint and a cigarette in a pub is one of the last great enjoyments left for the working classes.
"I'm not prepared to shove my customers outside in the wind and the rain to allow them their right to smoke. I believe this ban is tantamount to a hate crime. I won't pay the fine and will go to prison ... to make a point while I take this to the Court of Human Rights."
He said five of his customers had received fixed- penalty notices of ?50 for smoking in the pub and he had paid three of the fines.
Blackpool Council said that it had approached enforcement of the ban in a "non-confrontational way" and had verbally informed Mr Howitt that he faced prosecution before the summonses were issued.
Mr Howitt will appear at Blackpool magistrates' court on 1 August.