The Department of Health has dismissed as "sheer speculation" newspaper reports that restaurants and pubs face a "back-door" smoking ban.
The Daily Mail claimed last week that Health Secretary Frank Dobson was planning to tighten up health and safety rules to make it easier for employees to force their bosses to keep workplaces smoke-free.
Pubs and restaurants would be obliged to bring in bans if bar staff or waiters felt their health was at risk from a smoky atmosphere, said the report. The measures were to be outlined in the Government's white paper on smoking reduction, due out this summer.
But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the white paper had not even been drafted yet, so it was too early to say what would be in it.