MPs Back Comprehensive Smokefree Law, New Survey Reveals

Monday 15 August 2005

ASH/Cancer Research UK news release:


Embargo: 00:01hrs Monday 15th August 2005



MPs Back Comprehensive Smokefree Law, New Survey Reveals

More than two thirds of MPs would back a law to make all workplaces and enclosed public places smokefree, without the Government’s suggested exemptions for pubs that do not serve prepared food and for private membership clubs.


That‘s the conclusion of a new survey of Parliamentary opinion published today, commissioned by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and conducted by CommunicateResearch [1]. The company contacted 80 Labour MPs, 45 Conservative MPs, 22 Liberal Democrats, and 6 MPs representing the smaller parties [2].


Key findings were:

  • 69% of MPs would support a smokefree law covering all workplaces, without the exemptions currently proposed by the Government [3]
  • 77% agree that a widespread smokefree law would make it more pleasant to visit public places
  • 75% believe that smoking in workplaces ought to be prohibited to prevent people from doing things that might harm others
  • 91% agree that the Government has a responsibility to try to make people’s lives healthier by actively discouraging smoking.

Support among MPs for such a law has risen sharply since the last Parliament – from just over half to more than two in three. [4]


These findings will increase pressure on Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to drop the proposed exemptions from the Health Improvement and Protection Bill, after the current consultation period ends on 5th September. The public health lobby is optimistic that the great majority of responses to the consultation, from health organisations, hospitality trade bodies, employers, unions and members of the public, will back a comprehensive smokefree law.


Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Tobacco Control, commented:


“Support for comprehensive smokefree legislation is strong among MPs, and continues to grow. Many recent opinion polls have shown high public support for the measure, and it has been popular in Ireland.


“The Government cannot ignore the majority voice of people and politicians. Introducing legislation with exemptions and loopholes would deny protection to the many thousands of workers in the hospitality industry who are currently exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke.”



Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH commented:


“It is clear from this survey that most MPs – along with most members of the public – now want a comprehensive smokefree law. This is a critical and overdue public health reform. It will protect the health of workers and members of the public in currently smoke-filled workplaces. It will encourage many smokers to quit their lethal habit. It will save thousands of lives. Patricia Hewitt must find the political will to follow the Scottish and Irish example. The survey shows that most MPs share our view that anything less than a comprehensive smokefree law would be an ineffective and timid disappointment.”





[1] CommunicateResearch surveyed 153 MPs between 4th July and 28th July 2005, using self-completion postal questionnaires. Full report available from ASH

[2] Data were weighted to reflect the exact party composition and regional distribution of seats in the House of Commons.

[3] MPs were asked “Ireland, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand have each passed laws to ensure all enclosed public places and workplaces are smokefree. The UK Government’s current proposals for England will exempt pubs that do not serve prepared food, and private members clubs. How strongly, if at all, would you support or oppose a smokefree law without such exemptions?” The proportion of MPs supporting this proposition was:

  • 84% of Labour MPs polled
  • 75% of Lib Dem MPs
  • 88% of MPs from smaller parties
  • 34% of Tory MPs.

[4] In last year’s poll, conducted under the previous Parliament, 51% of MPs responded positively to the same question.