Gasp. Old Ethel from round the corner comes in with her usual fag-in-corner-of-mouth and, as we all know (although maybe not Ethel), there are new rules about this habit. It is perhaps not such a familiar scenario these days that customers habitually smoke in shops, but it can obviously happen as they nip in and out, and I suspect it happens just as often as kids brazening it out with their booze and cigs try-buys. The ciggie-smoking customers are probably just quickly parked outside and race in to pick up their 'refills' of whatever.
Retailers like Ratnam Ruban, who runs Green Lane Food & Wine in East London's Dagenham area, are right to worry that over-zealous local authorities, charged with policing this new rule in England, might come charging through their doors checking for signage before the ink was dry. As we all know, local authorities are keen to pursue new lines of imposing and collecting fines when given the go-ahead from government.
Ratnam did his best to comply in advance. He rang the gov helpline (0800 169 1697) and they said, yes, we have free signage which, by law from July 1 you must display in your store, but it might be another three weeks before you get the stuff.
"I'm worried that I might get fined before the free signs arrive," says Ratnam. "They said I could download free on the internet but I don't have this."
I spoke to the helpline (which runs seven days and was answered pretty promptly on a Saturday) and was told that the downloadable stuff offers temporary signage while you wait for the real deal.
And the helpline reiterated what one is reading everywhere. 'Policing' will be a softly-softly approach. Fines can only be imposed by environmental health officers who may also have something to say about the state of your doorway. So it probably also means you will have to sweep it a bit more often to clear up the butts.

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