SMOKING could be banned outside pubs, cafes and restaurants, if new Welsh Government proposals get the go-ahead.

Tobacco control campaign group ASH Wales has welcomed the plans which would see tough new anti-smoking laws extended to the outdoor seating areas of pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants to protect non-smokers from the effects of second-hand smoke.

The move follows concerns that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, puts people at higher risk of suffering more severe symptoms if they catch Covid-19.

The ban on smoking in the outdoor seating areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants could come into force during the next Senedd term if the proposals are given the go-ahead.

New legislation is being planned to come into force shortly and will ban smoking in hospital grounds and schools under the Public Health (Wales) Act.

Research by ASH Wales has shown there is strong public support for the introduction of tougher measures to curb smoking in Wales. Its research has shown that 63 per cent of adults support a smoking ban in the outdoor seating areas of restaurants and cafes and over half (59 per cent) support a ban on smoking in town centres.

Currently in Wales 17 per cent of adults smoke - an estimated 440,000 adults - and 45 per cent of smokers tried to quit last year.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething said: “Our Tobacco Control Delivery Plan for Wales sets a clear vision for a smoke-free society in Wales in which the harm from tobacco is eradicated.

“We have begun the process of setting our priorities for post-2020 to further reduce smoking rates to achieve our aim of a smoke-free Wales and I remain committed to making more of Wales’ public spaces smoke-free.”

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “In Wales, where 83 per cent of the population don’t smoke, it is crucially important that we introduce measures both to protect non-smokers, but also to de-normalise this devastating addiction and encourage smokers to seek help to quit.

“As lockdown restrictions are lifted and customers, including families with young children, return to the outdoor areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants, it is more important than ever to ensure that staff and customers are protected from breathing in second-hand smoke which we know carries significant health risks.”

Data from the COVID Symptom Study app involving more than 3 million people from the UK, Sweden and the US found that current smokers were 14 per cent more likely to develop the three classic symptoms of Covid-19 infection – fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath – than non-smokers.