ASH to press for Bill outlawing passive smoking at work

Wednesday 06 November 2002

ASH news release:  Embargo: 10:30 Wednesday 6th November 2002
ASH will be contacting Members of Parliament seeking support for a private members bill that will protect workers from the harmful effects of passive smoking at work [1].   The bill could be put forward by an MP selected in the private members ballot that will be held on 21 November, or by a peer as a Lords Bill.   Over 100 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 1621 [2] calling on the government to take action on passive smoking and work, and to fulfil the pledge to act in its 1998 tobacco White Paper.  The Bill proposal coincides with a major report on passive smoking and smoke free public places by the British Medical Association [3], which calls for legislation to ban smoking in public places (all public places are also workplaces).

The Bill would create a general prohibition of smoking at work, but allow exemptions in limited circumstances, for example in residential care homes, and subject to detailed regulations.  For licensed premises, the local authority would have powers to demand smoking restrictions as part of the licence conditions.   Under the proposed Licensing Reform Act, local authorities rather than magistrates would become the licensing authority.

A similar private members bill was adopted by Tessa Jowell MP in 1994 as a backbencher.  In government, Mrs Jowell became the minister responsible for the government’s tobacco White Paper in 1998, which proposed the use of the Health and Safety at Work Act to tackle smoking at work.  She has since become the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, with government responsibility for the hospitality trade, including pubs and restaurants.

The government has been consulting on proposals to apply the Health and Safety at Work Act to passive smoking for almost four years, and it is over two years since the Health and Safety Commission – including employers, local authorities and trade unionists – gave the measure their blessing.  This proposal is known as an Approved Code of Practice [3].  Clive Bates, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

They just can’t go on ignoring a source of cancer and heart disease in the workplace as if it is some trivial annoyance.  If something as toxic as cigarette smoke was leaking out of a machine or a pipe, then the authorities would have banned it years ago.

The government could fix this overnight by agreeing the ACoP or implementing the proposed Bill as regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.  But four years on, they seem determined to set a record for procrastination.  The proposed Bill could be tightened over time as smoking becomes less and less acceptable.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, a Labour peer who has persistently pressed the government over its policy on passive smoking at work said:

There is widespread support for protection of non-smokers in both houses and it’s time we had legislation that deals properly with the problem – I’ll be looking at how we can take it forward.

Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the All-party Group on Smoking and Health, said:

It’s just not acceptable to have workers, often in poor and underpaid jobs, routinely exposed to passive smoking at work when it is known to cause cancer.  The proposed Bill is a sensible approach to dealing with this problem and I think many MPs would be interested in sponsoring it.


Notes and links: available at 

[1] Proposed outline of Bill (pdf): A Bill to Protect Workers from Passive Smoking at Work, November 2002

[2] EDM 1621 “Smoking in the workplace”

[3] BMA report “Towards Smoke-free public places” (summary)

[4] Background briefing on the ACoP (pdf)

Contact:           Clive Bates 020 7739 5902 (w) 077 6879 1237 (m) ISDN available

                        Marsha Williams 020 7739 5902 (w) 078 8443 2031 (m)