Victory over Smoking Bill in Queen’s Speech

Tuesday 17 May 2005

ASH Media Release: Immediate Use, Tuesday 17th May 2005
Public health campaigners have expressed delight at the inclusion of a Bill on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places in today’s Queen’s Speech. But they have also announced that they will step up their campaign to get remaining exemptions for some pubs and clubs removed from the final Bill. A draft Bill is likely to be published by the Government in mid-June, followed by a 12 week consultation period. The final Bill may be put before Parliament in October or November.

The Government’s proposals, set out in last November’s White Paper on Public Health and in Labour’s General Election manifesto, would end smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places, except pubs which do not serve prepared food and private membership clubs. [Please note: the new law would apply not only to hospitality venues, but to all workplaces and enclosed public places]. Government surveys show that the law would affect about two million people who now work in places where smoking is allowed throughout, and more than ten million who work in places where smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises. [1] Last November, the Government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health advised that exposure to other people’s smoke increased the risk of non-smokers contracting lung cancer and heart disease, in both cases by about a quarter. [2]

The Government has estimated that between 10% and 30% of pubs would be exempted under its proposals. Private clubs not admitting children could also be exempt, following a vote of members.  The exemptions have been attacked by doctors and public health experts because such pubs and clubs are concentrated in poorer communities and exempting them would make health inequalities worse and would leave some of the most vulnerable employees exposed to health risk. If some pubs stop serving food to escape the new law, the exemptions could also undermine the Government’s alcohol strategy, which encourages people to eat while drinking.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

”The announcement today of a Bill to end smoking in the great majority of workplaces and enclosed public places is a stunning victory for public health campaigners. Only two years ago we were told repeatedly that such a law was not even on the political radar. We are delighted.

But now we have to persuade the Government that the absurd exemptions for some pubs and clubs must be dropped from the final Bill. They will undermine the whole purpose of the Bill, increase health inequalities and create all sorts of problems for the hospitality trade. We need a simple law of the kind that has been such a huge success in Ireland, and which is due to be introduced in Scotland. We are confident that we will succeed.”




[1] Smoke Freedom Toolkit Published: Also Key Figures on Workplace Exposure, ASH press release, 03 September 2004

[2] Secondhand Smoke: Review of evidence since 1998, Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH)