Wales: Smoking Bill to be introduced in Commons



Friday 17 December 2004

MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Use, Tuesday 21st December 2004
A Bill to give the National Assembly for Wales the power to end smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places is to be moved by Julie Morgan MP (Labour, Cardiff North), after she took fourth place in the latest Private Members’ Ballot.

The Bill will be formally announced in Parliament on January 12th 2005, and is likely to have a Second Reading in March 2005. It is backed by key public health groups including the British Medical Association Wales Cymru, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health. The Bill is virtually identical to one moved by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and already passed by the House of Lords.

The Government’s White Paper on Public Health, published on 16th November 2004, supported legislation to restrict smoking in most public places in England and Wales, but also proposed exemptions for private clubs and pubs that do not serve prepared food. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain and Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt have both indicated that Wales may get specific powers to bring in a comprehensive ban, but the Government has not yet given a firm answer on this point. The National Assembly is now conducting hearings on the issue and has previously voted in favour of asking the UK Parliament for the necessary powers (in January 2003).

27% of adults in Wales smoke. According to the National Public Health Service for Wales, smoking rates vary greatly by social class – with 33% of people in Wales in social class 5 smoking (most deprived) compared to 20% for social class 1 (least deprived).

Smoking is the country’s biggest cause of preventable death. It causes at least 80% of all deaths from lung cancer, around 80% of all deaths from bronchitis and emphysema and around 17% of all deaths from heart disease.

According to figures presented to a conference of the Royal College of Physicians in May 2004 by Professor Konrad Jamrozik, formerly of Imperial College London, exposure to secondhand smoke at work across the UK leads to approximately 700 deaths from these causes annually from lung cancer, heart disease and stroke combined (RCP press release). For comparison, the total number of deaths from all industrial accidents in the UK in 2002/3 was reported by the Health and Safety Executive as 226. Jamrozik also estimated that on average one worker in the hospitality industries dies from exposure to secondhand smoke each week. According to the British Medical Association, the number of premature deaths in Wales from exposure to secondhand smoke is about 30 each year.

The most authoritative survey of public attitudes on secondhand smoke showed overwhelming public support in Wales for a new law. The poll was conducted by MORI and commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health. More than four thousand people were interviewed across the country between 15th April and 4th May 2004 [1]. 78% of those polled in Wales supported a law to ensure that all enclosed workplaces must be smokefree [2].

Public health experts have criticised the exemptions proposed in the White Paper. First, they would leave some of Britain’s most vulnerable employees – bar staff – at risk from secondhand smoke. Secondly, exempted pubs would be concentrated in Britain’s poorest communities, which also have the highest smoking rates, undermining the Government’s drive to reduce health inequalities.

Julie Morgan MP comments:

“There is overwhelming backing in Wales for a new law to end smoking in all workplaces an enclosed public places. Similar laws have been proved successful in New York, Ireland and elsewhere. I am delighted to get the chance to support calls from the National Assembly to be given the powers it needs to act.

Although the UK Government’s White Paper was a major step in the right direction, the Welsh people want us to go further. Exempting some pubs and clubs from smoking restrictions would just reduce the impact of a new law, as well as making health inequalities worse. Ending smoking in the workplace would protect vulnerable employees and members of the public from the damaging effects of breathing other people’s smoke. It would also persuade many smokers to quit, and save thousands of lives every year. The time for action is now.”   

 

NOTES 

[1] 4,060 interviews were conducted with residents in Great Britain between 15 years and older. Fieldwork was conducted on two waves of the MORI Omnibus – wave 14 (15th to 19th April) and wave 16 (29th April to 4th May).

[2] Asked Ireland, Canada, Norway and New Zealand have each passed laws to ensure all enclosed workplaces are smoke free.  How strongly, if at all, would you support or oppose a proposal to bring in a similar law in this country?”: In Wales:

·         54% strongly support

·         24% tend to support

·         9% neither support nor oppose

·         8% tend to oppose

·         4% strongly oppose.

 

CONTACT:    Julie Morgan MP   020 7219 6960 (Commons)
Ian Willmore          020 7739 5902 (w)  07887 641344 (m)