Health Bill Commons Report Stage Tuesday 14th February 2006 Smoking in Workplaces and Enclosed Public Places

Friday 10 February 2006

Advance Media Briefing


Health Bill Commons Report Stage

Tuesday 14th February 2006

Smoking in Workplaces and Enclosed Public Places


ASH will be available for analysis and comment before and after the Commons Debate.


ASH Director Deborah Arnott will be present in the Commons on Tuesday 14th February and available for interview outside Parliament. ASH Public Affairs Manager Ian Willmore will be on the ASH main number.



  • ASH Main Number – 020 7739 5902
  • Deborah Arnott – 07976 935987
  • Ian Willmore – 07887 641344







1.      An end to all smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places would protect non-smokers from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke, and would encourage many smokers to quit. Such legislation has proved effective, popular and easy to introduce and enforce in the Republic of Ireland, New York, California and elsewhere.


2.      In its current form, the Health Bill would end smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places in England, with the exception of:

  • Residential premises, which may include prisons, hotel bedrooms, and long stay care facilities;
  • Pubs that do not serve prepared food;
  • Registered licensed membership clubs.

The Bill also gives the National Assembly for Wales powers to introduce smokefree legislation – the Assembly has already voted in favour of a comprehensive smokefree law. The Government has previously announced that Northern Ireland will have a smokefree order, without an exemption for pubs and clubs, and the Scottish smokefree legislation (which also does not exempt pubs and clubs) comes into effect on March 26th this year.


3.      The Health Bill would therefore protect many workers and members of the public in England but leave some of those at most risk still exposed to the health risks of secondhand smoke. It would also reduce the number of smokers quitting as a result of the legislation, worsen health inequalities, and produce perverse and unfair competition between licensed premises.


4.      In its December 2005 Report (‘Smoking in Public Places’ : HC 485-1), the House of Commons Health Select Committee described the exemptions for non-food pubs and clubs as ‘unfair, unjust, inefficient and unworkable’.


5.      The existing framework for exemptions is set out in Clause 3 of the Bill. Details of how any exemptions would apply will be contained in consequent Regulations. However, the Government has now tabled New Clause 5 (to replace Clause 3 of the existing Bill), together with an amendment. There will be a free vote on both the New Clause and amendment.


How the Commons Debate Will Work


6.      New Clause 5 will be moved by Patricia Hewitt. It will replace Clause 3 of the existing Bill. It allows exemptions from smokefree legislation, and gives as examples of exemptions:

·         residential premises (e.g. hotel bedrooms, prisons) and

·         clubs in possession of a clubs premises certificate (the 20,000 membership clubs that are owned by the members and sell booze).

7.      It also specifically precludes exemptions for any other licensed premises (i.e. pubs, bars and restaurants). Therefore the exemption for non-food pubs in the existing Clause 3 would be dropped.


8.      An Amendment to New Clause 5 will then be moved by Caroline Flint. It will remove b) above, the exemption for clubs. It would preclude exemptions for ANY licensed premises (i.e. pubs, bars, restaurants AND clubs). The Health lobby regards this amendment together with the remainder of New Clause 5 as the “comprehensive smokefree legislation”.


9.      The New Clause will first of all require a Second Reading, which should be a formality not requiring a division. The first substantive vote is likely to be on the Amendment to the New Clause, i.e. on whether or not to exempt clubs. There will then be a substantive Report Stage vote on the New Clause, whether amended or not. If the New Clause were defeated (which is extremely unlikely), the Government would go back to the existing Clause 3.


10.  ASH is CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC that the Commons will pass comprehensive smokefree legislation, but the vote on whether to exempt clubs is likely to be close.


Secondhand Smoke: Evidence


11.  Around half of all workers in Great Britain continue to be exposed to other people’s smoke at work. Many such workplaces are operated by small firms and employ relatively low-paid staff. Workplace smoking is of course also common in the hospitality trades – restaurants, pubs, casinos etc. Using Government data and with results checked by the Office for National Statistics, ASH has calculated that about 2.2 million people work in places where smoking is allowed throughout and a further 10.4 million in places where smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises [1]


12.  The scientific evidence on the health effects of secondhand smoke is overwhelming:

·           the Government’s scientific advisers on the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health have reported that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer in non smokers, in both cases by about a quarter [2]

·         Four fifths of the country’s five million asthma sufferers report that secondhand smoke makes their condition worse;

·         Professor Konrad Jamrozik of the University of Queensland estimated in a paper published in the British Medical Journal that exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace causes about 600 deaths each year across the UK in all occupations – and 54 premature deaths each year among hospitality industry employees, or more than one a week. This is more than three times the number killed each year in industrial injuries and accidents.[3]

·         Bar workers are currently routinely exposed to levels of smoke equivalent to a moderate smoker, but smokefree legislation dramatically reduces this exposure. SCOTH identified bar workers as an occupational group at particular risk.


Effect of Smokefree Legislation on Smoking Rates


13.  Currently, around one in four of the adult population smokes. More than 100,000 people die every year from smoking related disease. Approximately half of those who smoke throughout their adult lives will die from smoking-related disease. Because smoking rates are higher in poorer communities, smoking is the most important single contributor to health inequalities and the difference in life expectancy between social classes.


14.  In July 2004, the Department of Health (DH) agreed new Public Service Agreement targets with the Treasury.  These include reducing adult smoking rates to 21% or less by 2010, with a reduction in prevalence among routine and manual groups to 26% or less.These targets cannot be achieved without comprehensive smokefree legislation. The Regulatory Impact Assessment published with the Health Bill estimates that comprehensive smokefree legislation would reduce smoking prevalence rates across the country by 1.7%. This is equivalent to around 700,000 smokers across England quitting.




Smokefree Legislation is Popular


15.  The public now overwhelmingly backs comprehensive smokefree legislation. A major poll was conducted by polling firm You Gov in December 2005 (commissioned by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health). Asked if they would support legislation *to make all workplaces smokefree, including pubs and restaurants, 72% said yes. The figure for England was 71%, the same as for Scotland. Given a list of specific public places, 67% across the UK said that all pubs and bars should be smokefree by law.  The figure for England was 66%, up from 51% in Spring 2004.


16.  A further survey conducted by BMRB and commissioned by the British Heart Foundation and ASH asked the public in England whether it would support the amendment to the Health Bill tabled by Kevin Barron MP and ten members of the Health Select Committee (which would remove the proposed exemptions for non-food pubs and clubs). “Q. A Government Bill in parliament will make enclosed workplaces smokefree, with exemptions for pubs not serving food, and private members clubs. The Chair of the Health Committee supported by committee members from all parties has tabled an amendment to make ALL enclosed workplaces, including all pubs and clubs smokefree. How strongly would you support or oppose this amendment to make ALL enclosed workplaces smokefree?” 70% supported, with 18% opposed and the remainder undecided or don’t know.  


Exemptions for Pubs and Clubs


17.  The exemption in the Bill for pubs that do not serve prepared food would worsen health inequalities. Survey evidence shows that 45% of pubs and bars in the most deprived areas of England would be exempt, compared with 14% of pubs in the least deprived. The proportion of pubs and bars not serving prepared food could rise to 40% if the final legislation includes the proposed exemption, as many pubs could cease to serve food in order to continue to allow smoking. Exemptions for non-food pubs would be expensive and difficult to enforce. In consultation papers on enforcement, the Department of Health suggested that a list of “permitted bar snacks” would be needed, together with a maximum weight limit of 50g – leaving environmental health officers to police pork scratchings and weigh pickled onions.


18.  Under New Clause 5 (if the amendment is not carried) membership clubs in possession of a club premises certificate, as defined by the Licensing Act 2003, could also be exempt from smokefree provisions, following a vote of members.  Qualifying clubs are those run by and on behalf of the members, rather than for profit. [4] In mid-2004 there were about 20,000 such clubs in England and Wales [5]

19.  It is unacceptable that members of clubs should have the right to vote to damage the health of their staff. The vulnerability of a bar worker to secondhand smoke does not depend in any way on whether the bar in which they work is owned by members of a club or run as a profit-making business.


20.  Private clubs with bars frequently compete with pubs in their local area. Exempting them from smokefree legislation will create unfair competition and is strongly opposed by the pub trade for this reason. The Morning Advertiser, newspaper of the pub industry, recommended in an editorial on Thursday 26th January that “the 20,000 members clubs in England and Wales must operate on the same lines as our pubs. If they do not, the Government will have created an explosive situation that could tear communities apart in many regions of the country. The trade must now switch its focus to persuading Government that only a total ban is fair…” (MA Opinion, Andrew Pring, Editor, 26.1.2006). John Grogan MP, Chair of the All Party Beer Group, wrote in the same edition that “… the decision this week by a critical mass of the beer and pub industry to join with the health lobby and local government to argue for comprehensive smokefree legislation is both historic and timely.”


Although national survey data are not available, it is clear from regional and local data that, as for pubs not serving food, licensed clubs in many areas are concentrated in poorer communities and areas of high smoking prevalence.


21.  The House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned that exemptions from smokefree legislation for non-food pubs and clubs could breach human rights legislation.


22.  The Health and Safety Commission has backed comprehensive smokefree legislation without the exemptions for pubs and clubs. Bill Callaghan, Chair of the Health and Safety Commission, wrote to Patricia Hewitt during the consultation on the Bill calling for exemptions for pubs and clubs to be dropped. A paper approved by the HSC at its meeting on 27th July 2005 stated that:


“The arguments for a wider ban in all licensed premised are these:

·         the science: SCOTH [the Government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health] is clear that second hand smoke is harmful. The Government’s proposals appear to be at odds with equality in public health.

·         better regulation: for regulation to be effective it must be capable of ready application by those to whom it is addressed. Differing restrictions in the UK will lead to confusion and lessen benefits. A uniform approach to smoking will be easier for employers, employees and the public to understand and comply with…

·         effective enforcement: a simpler regime, with fewer and less complex exemptions, will aid enforcement by the Local Authorities.”


Smokefree Legislation


23.  The tobacco lobby and sections of the hospitality trade often claim that smoking restrictions are bad for business. The objective evidence does not support this claim.


24.  For example, in March 2004, a report on the impact of the legislation in the city of New York was issued by the City’s Department of Finance, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Small Business Services, and the Economic Development Corporation. It concluded that:  “One year later, the data are clear. . . Since the law went into effect, business receipts for restaurants and bars have increased, employment has risen, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the number of new liquor licenses issued has increased—all signs that New York City bars and restaurants are prospering.” [6]


25.  In Ireland, the Vintners Federation of Ireland and other groups have frequently claimed that the smokefree law has reduced pub takings by “20-30%”. This claim is demonstrably false. Indeed, Irish retail sales figures show that the volume of sales of beer, wine, spirits and food in pubs rose by in 5.3% in the year to October 2005, and the value of sales by 4.2% (seasonally adjusted). This in fact reverses a long decline in sales in the period before smokefree legislation came into effect. [7]


26.  The 2003 Annual Report by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer estimated that a comprehensive smokefree law could benefit the British economy by up to £2.7 billion. That’s about £40 for every man, woman and child in the country. The total includes up to £680m from having healthier employees producing more goods and services, £140m saved through fewer sick days, £430m saved because less production would be lost to cigarette breaks and £100m saved by not having to clean up after smokers. [8]


Displacement of Smoking from Work to Home


27.  It is sometimes suggested that ending smoking in workplaces displaces smoking into homes – increasing domestic exposure to secondhand smoke. There is no good research evidence for this claim – no published peer reviewed study has ever demonstrated such an effect. In fact, the evidence shows the reverse – workplace bans lead to less smoking in the home as smokers quit and awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke rises.


28.  Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint stated: On the […] point in terms of is there a displacement, in terms of the evidence we have got, in particular there have been two reports in the last six months […] which had done some work looking at this issue about whether there was displacement to the home, which did not show that there was evidence that smoking restrictions did displace into the home […] I am happy to say, as far as I am aware, there is no current evidence that would suggest there is a move to more smoking in the home as a result of restrictions or bans”. [9]


29.  A written answer from the Health Minister on 28th November 2005 stated:

“Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on whether the proposed ban on smoking in public places will displace smoking from pubs to domestic environments. [28639]

Caroline Flint: The evidence available from those countries with legislation for smokefree public places and bars is that there is no significant displacement to domestic environments. Smokefree legislation has been shown to result in reduced prevalence of smoking, which in turn means reduced prevalence of smoking in domestic environments as well as public places. Recent research on the ban in Ireland reported in the publication “Going Smokefree” by the Royal College of Physicians pointed to a “statistically significant increase in the percentage of smokers who banned smoking in their own homes after the smokefree law was introduced” (P.74). [10]




30.  It is often claimed by the tobacco industry that ventilation will remove the effects of secondhand smoke in public places. There is no good scientific basis for this view. Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of over 4,000 chemicals, including over 50 cancer-causing agents. Ventilation may remove the smell of tobacco smoke but it does not eliminate all the cancer-causing particles and gases from the air. Research by D Kotzias and others at the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s INDOORTRON facility concluded that ”… changes in ventilation rates simulating conditions expected in many residential and commercial environments during smoking do not have a significant influence on the air concentration levels of ETS constituents, e.g. CO, NOx, aromatic compounds, nicotine. This suggests that efforts to reduce ETS originated indoor air pollution through higher ventilation rates in buildings, including residential areas and hospitality venues, would not lead to a meaningful improvement in indoor air quality. Moreover the results show that ‘wind tunnel’ like rates or other high rates of dilution ventilation would be expected to be required to achieve pollutant levels close to ambient air limit values”.  In other words, for ventilation to have any significant effect, it would require tornado like quantities of ventilation to produce an acceptable risk to those exposed to secondhand smoking. [11]


31.  A recent article in the British Medical Journal revealed how British American Tobacco promoted air filtration systems as a “solution” to secondhand smoke, despite knowing that they were largely ineffective. According to BAT scientist, Nigel Warren, the company’s interest in air filtration was primarily “to negate the need for indoor smoking bans around the world …” [12]