Smokefree law expected in Queen’s speech

Friday 13 May 2005

ADVANCE NOTICE: Friday 13th May 2005

– ASH can supply contacts, statistics, advice and comment on smokefree legislation –


A Bill on public health, including smoking restrictions in workplaces and enclosed public places, is likely in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday May 17th 2005. Labour’s current proposals would end smoking in the great majority of workplaces, with limited exemptions for pubs which do not serve prepared food and for private membership clubs.


Government Proposals


The Labour Party manifesto stated:


“We recognise that many people want smoke-free environments and need regulation to help them get this. We therefore intend to shift the balance significantly in their favour. We will legislate to ensure that all enclosed public places and workplaces other than licensed premises will be smoke-free. The legislation will ensure that all restaurants will be smoke-free, all pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free; and other pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or be smoke-free. In membership clubs the members will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free. However, whatever the general status, to protect employees, smoking in the bar area will be prohibited everywhere.


These restrictions will be accompanied by an expansion of NHS smoking cessation services to encourage and support smokers to improve their own health by giving up smoking.


Starting with the poorest areas of the country we will introduce health trainers to help people maintain their healthy choices. By 2010, through this activity we plan to reduce the health inequalities that exist between rich and poor.”[1]


Consultation on the precise form of the Bill are expected to begin in July and ending with publication of the final Bill in October. These deadlines may of course slip. The public health lobby is optimistic that the new Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, can be persuaded to drop the exemptions, which ASH has previously described as a “ridiculous bodge”.


Secondhand Smoke and Health


The Government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health reported in November 2004 that:

·         There is an increased risk of lung cancer for non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke of about 24%, confirming the findings of the previous report.

·         There is an increased risk of ischaemic heart disease for non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, and “the weight of evidence now is stronger than at the time of the [1998] SCOTH report. The increased risk associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is in the order of 25%”.

·         Children are at particular risk from secondhand smoke – “the evidence strongly links secondhand smoke with an increased risk of pneumonia and bronchitis, asthma attacks, middle ear disease, decreased lung function and sudden infant death syndrome. It has also been shown that babies born to mothers who come into contact with secondhand smoke have lower birth weights”.

·         “The evidence published since1998 points to an association between secondhand smoke and respiratory symptoms and reduced lung functions in adults”. A major study in Finland has provided strong evidence that “adult onset asthma is significantly increased by recent exposure to secondhand smoke at work and at home”. [2]


ASH has used the Government’s Labour Force Survey for 2003 and the National Statistics Omnibus Survey, smoking-related behaviour and attitudes module, carried out in October and November 2003 to calculate the number of people exposed to secondhand smoke at work. The results have been checked by the Office for National Statistics.


2,182,000 people work in places with “no restrictions on smoking at all”. This is 8% of those in work in Great Britain

10,366,000 people work in places where smoking takes place in “designated areas”. This is 38% of those in work.


Professor Konrad Jamrozik of the University of Queensland estimated in an article for the British Medical Journal that exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace:


·       causes 54 premature deaths each year among hospitality industry employees – or more than one a week

·       causes more than 600 deaths each year across the UK.[3]


For comparison, the total number of fatal accidents at work from all causes in the UK in 2003/4 was reported by the Health and Safety Executive as 235.


Pubs and Clubs


The Government has estimated that between 10% and 30% of pubs would be exempted under its proposals. There are about 55,000 pubs across the country, so this exemption may cover anything between 5,500 and 16,500 establishments.  Private clubs not admitting children could also be exempt, following a vote of members.  There are about 20,000 registered clubs – clubs owned by the members – in England and Wales


Common sense suggests that many exempted pubs and clubs will be in poorer communities. These communities will have higher than average smoking prevalence rates, and will be suffering from the sharp health inequalities that the class distribution of smoking brings. Many membership clubs – for example Labour Clubs – will also be in such communities. For example, an analysis of local licensed premises carried out by environmental health officers for Councils and NHS Primary Care Trusts in Northamptonshire showed that 54% of pubs and bars in Northamptonshire serve only drinks and would be exempt from the controls on smoking in public places. In the borough of Corby, an area where mortality rates are significantly higher than the national average, 85% of pubs and bars would be exempt [4]. The proposal to exempt some pubs and membership clubs therefore threatens to undermine key objectives of the White Paper – to reduce smoking prevalence rates and tackle health inequalities.


The White Paper on Public Health (“Choosing Health”), published last November, noted the risk that some pubs may cease to serve prepared food in order to qualify as premises that can continue to permit smoking. This fear was dismissed with the words “we believe that the profitability of serving food will be sufficient to outweigh any perverse incentive for pub owners to choose to switch”. This assertion has been contradicted by senior figures in the pub trade, for example, Tim Clarke, chief executive of restaurant and pubs group Mitchells & Butlers has warned that: “the enforced specialisation between food and smoking risks commercially incentivising more pubs than the White Paper currently anticipates to remove food and retaining smoking throughout.”


The proposal to prohibit smoking in the “bar area” of exempted pubs would fail to provide adequate protection for employees or members of the public. Smoke drifts. Most pubs currently have any separated smoking and non-smoking areas in the same open space. Ventilation systems are expensive, hard to maintain, and as even Philip Morris has admitted, do not provide good protection from the health effects of secondhand smoke. (“While not shown to address the health effects of secondhand smoke, ventilation can help improve the air quality”)[5]


Scotland and Wales


On 28th April 2005, the Scottish Parliament voted for comprehensive legislation by 83 to 15 and the Bill is now in its Committee stage. On 10th May 2005, a Committee of the National Assembly for Wales published its report calling for the Assembly to get similar powers to legislate in Wales. This requires the approval of the UK Government, and powers could be included in the Bill on public health. The timetable for legislation in Wales would be 2 to 3 years, while the legislation in Scotland is likely to take effect during 2006. Consultation on action in Northern Ireland has now concluded, with all the Northern Irish parties also supporting comprehensive legislation.


Smokefree Laws Abroad


In Ireland, New York and elsewhere, smokefree laws have proved successful and popular.


In Ireland:

  • According to Euromonitor International, sales of cigarettes in Ireland fell 8.7% last year, when the ban was implemented, after declining 3.4% in 2003, and 1.2% in 2002. Gallaher Tobacco, the market leader in Ireland, has reported that Irish sales dropped 10.7% from January and October of last year.
  • Support for the law increased after its introduction. Irish Marketing Surveys (commissioned by the Department of Health) reported in Summer 2004 that 82% of the public backed the smokefree law, and 90% agreed it would benefit workers. 70% reported that it improved their experience in pubs, and 78 said it improved their experience in restaurants.
  • Figures released in February 2005 by the Central Statistics Office of Ireland show that the value of bar sales in Ireland fell by 3.5% between April and December 2004, compared to the same period in 2003. The decrease of the value of sales is in line with the decrease of the volume of sales in the bars in Ireland, which began in 2001, well before the smokefree law was introduced. (Note: this contradicts wild claims by the Irish Licensed Victuallers Association and tobacco lobby groups in the UK)
  • The Irish Office of Tobacco Control reported in December 2004 that compliance levels with the new law are high.  Compliance levels are reported at:
    – 94% in hotels;
    – 99% in restaurants;
    – 91% in licensed premises.
  • According to the Irish Examiner (March 21st 2005) fewer than 20 prosecutions have been required since the introduction of the smokefree law. [6]


In New York, official figures show that one year after the legislation

  • Business tax receipts in restaurants and bars were up 8.7%;
  • Employment in restaurants and bars increased by 10,600 jobs (about 2,800 seasonally adjusted jobs);
  • 97% of restaurants and bars were fully smoke-free;


New Yorkers overwhelmingly supported the law. [7]


Commenting, ASH Director Deborah Arnott said:


“Including smokefree legislation in the Queen’s Speech will be another step towards the most important public health reform in Britain for many years. It will bring protection for millions of people whose health is threatened by other people’s smoke. And it will help tens of thousands of smokers to quit. Now we must persuade the new Health Secretary to go the extra yard, follow the Irish and Scottish example, and produce a law that has no exemptions for pubs and clubs. We are confident that we will succeed.”




CONTACT:              Ian Willmore          020 7739 5902 (w)  07887 641344 (m)


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<spanclass=msoendnotereference>[2]<spanstyle=’font-size:9.0pt;font-family:arial’> scoth/PDFS/scothnov2004.pdf

<spanstyle=’font-size:9.0pt;line-height:110%;font-family:arial;vertical-align:baseline’>[3]<spanstyle=’font-size:9.0pt’> “Estimate of Deaths Among Adults in the UnitedKingdom Attributable to Passive Smoking”: BMJ/2004/227587, by Konrad JamrozikMBBS DPhil FAFPHM MFPH ILTM, Professor of Evidence-Based Health Care,University of Queensland

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<spanclass=msoendnotereference>[7]<spanstyle=’font-size:9.0pt;font-family:arial’> NYC Department of Finance, NYCDepartment of Health & Mental Hygiene, NYC Department of Small BusinessServices, NYC Economic Development Corporation, “The State of Smoke-Free NewYork City: A One-Year Review”, March 2004, <ahref=”http:”” html=”” doh=”” pdf=”” smoke=”” sfaa-2004report.pdf”=””><spanstyle=’color:windowtext;font-weight:normal’>