HEALTH experts in Dorset believe the government's plans to introduce a partial ban on smoking in public places will not go far enough and will create significant inequalities.

The white paper is expected to back down on a blanket ban on the third phase of proposals involving licensed premises.

It is expected to allow bars and licencees, which do not serve food, allow smoking on their premises and will also exempt private members' clubs from the ban.

However Janet Wilson, the lifestyle manager for the South and East Dorset PCT Trust, believes the proposed legislation will discriminate between affluent areas where food is more likely to be served and more deprived areas where it is not.

"It does create a divide because people in deprived areas will continue to smoke if pubs do not ban smoking and there will be less encouragement to give up.

"I think a partial ban would make it easier on rural licensees, where people are less likely to smoke but would be more difficult to impose in less affluent urban areas."

A recent survey by the British Medical Council (BMC) also found that pubs that do not serve food are more prevalent in deprived areas.

It suggests that excluding members' clubs from the ban would also introduce wealth inequality.

A spokesman said: "Our results show that people in deprived areas are more likely to live near pubs exempt from legislation to protect them against smoking. This is likely to worsen inequalities in health and smoking prevalence."

The BMC is lobbying the government to introduce a complete ban and is seeking to bring forward the proposed date for the partial ban, which is 2008.

A survey by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health, recently suggested that 75 per cent of Britons support a total ban on smoking.

The World's End, in Morden, Purbeck, is one of the few pubs in Dorset to have already imposed a smoking ban.

Manager Chris Stagg, said: "We did a survey of our customers and eighty six per cent of them said they wanted a complete ban. We brought in the ban on smoking in March and since then our trade has gone up by 14 per cent.

"When three or four people smoke at the bar it stops 30 or 40 people eating in the restaurant so it's a no brainer.

"Seventy five per cent of our trade is food so it's in our interest as well."

"At the moment the government does not differentiate between bars and restaurants but a full ban would be the way forward."

There is some resistance to an outright ban in Dorset.

For instance, Nadia Bevis assistant manager at The Pines in Winton, which serves all day breakfasts, believes it would put pubs like hers out of business.

"I agree with having a non smoking area but not throughout the pub. Ninety per cent of our customers are smokers so we would lose too much trade if we were to totally ban smoking."

Janet Wilson disagrees: "The pro smoking lobby are saying that the ban in Ireland has affected trade but in fact there has been a year-on-year reduction in the pub industry there anyway for the last few years.

"If there was a partial ban then pub regulars would have to go to the next nearest pub if they really wanted to smoke but if there was a total ban then they could not do this."

Neil Rafferty, a spokesman for the pro-choice lobby group FOREST, appeared to accept that some sort of ban is inevitable but would prefer a partial ban.

He said: "We believe in choice for everyone. A partial ban would create smoking and non-smoking pubs, which will increase choice.

"In a free market society, owners should be able to choose for themselves."

He cited the introduction of minimum air quality standards as an alternative solution, although he admitted that smaller pubs might find it hard to finance air extraction systems.

Businesses, smokers and non-smokers have until September 5 to respond to the ironically named public consultation paper Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier.