Landlords are reporting losses of up to £1,000 a week since the smoking ban was introduced.

With the new law now six months old, others are reporting losing a third of their trade as punters shun their local in favour of a can of lager and a cigarette in the comfort of their own homes.

The ban has also created so-called "smoking widows" - people left sitting alone while partners or friends go outside to smoke.

In addition, publicans have reported a rise in complaints about other smells once masked by tobacco.

Tony Ford, manager of The Star Inn in Manchester Street, Kemp Town, Brighton, has seen his takings fall by one third since the ban, despite installing two outdoor areas for smokers.

He said: "Groups of friends get split up when some of them go outside to smoke.

It's the same with couples.

"That's when you get smoking widows, because the partner has to sit inside on their own.

"British pubs are the best pubs in the world but the new legislation is sucking the soul out of them."

Julia Millham, of The Kings Arms in George Street, Kemp Town, said regulars hated the ban and trade had dropped by £1,000 a week.

Figures released by the British Beer and Pub Association show sales of beer in British pubs fell by six per cent in the year ending November 2007.

In November alone, sales were down 9.7 per cent on the same period in 2006.

Colin Millham, who has run the Kings Arms with his wife Julie for the past 14 years, believes the ban, coupled with competition from cheap supermarket alcohol, was to blame.

He said: "There's an economic situation at play here. People are spending less and supermarkets are selling beer at prices we can't even buy it for.

"It's a difficult time for the pub trade.

Overheads have gone up but our profits haven't.

"Why is the Government forcing this upon us when they don't make tobacco itself illegal?"

But the ban has produced some positive results, with some pubs where food is served seeing a rise in customers who want to eat in a smoke-free atmosphere.

Alan Bonner, barman at the No Name bar and restaurant in Brighton's St James's Street, said it made a large proportion of its money from food.

Barry Furlong, landlord of The Ranelagh pub in nearby High Street for the past 17 years, is in favour of the ban, which has helped increase his profits.

The outdoor area he has provided for smokers has kept customers coming in and, as a smoker himself, he refuses to visit any pub which does not have an outside space.

He said: "The Ranelagh has a much nicer atmosphere since the ban came in.

"We get people in here who never used to go into pubs because of the smoke.

"We often get bands playing here and they appreciate performing in a room which isn't filled with smoke.

"Now people who want to smoke come dressed to cope with the cold weather and sit outside for hours."

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