Legislation for a UK ban on smoking in public places could be on its way within 18 months, according to anti-tobacco charity Ash.
The charity says it expects a ban to be included in the Government's forthcoming public health white paper, published by early autumn.
"If the ban is in the white paper, it is pretty likely to be featured in the Queen's Speech the year after next," said Ian Willmore, Ash's public affairs manager.
The charity's confidence has been buoyed by the success of a similar ban launched in Ireland last month, and new figures showing that New York's hospitality trade has flourished since going smoke-free 10 months ago.
Anti-smoking charities have welcomed news that Tim Martin, chairman of the pub chain JD Wetherspoon, is backing calls for a ban by 2006.