Action on Smoking and Health

Tag Archives: smoking ban

Key Dates in Tobacco Regulation

A chronology of tobacco control events from 1962 to the present day, focusing mainly on laws and policies made in the United Kingdom.

Download here.










ASH Daily News for 4 October 2018


  • North West: School gates ban for smokers
  • North West: Morecambe vape shop’s cessation scheme gains NHS support


  • Daily Bulletin 4: Framework Convention Alliance at the WHO FCTC conference of the parties


North West: School gates ban for smokers

Tameside Council is calling on the borough’s schools to sign up to a Smokefree Gates policy. Council Leader Brenda Warrington said: “Everyone must be aware of the dangers of tobacco. It’s the biggest cause of preventable death and linked to many diseases including cancer. Children exposed to smoking are significantly more likely to take up the habit themselves.

That’s why we want Tameside’s schools to sign up to a Smokefree Gates policy in addition to any other no-smoking or Smokefree measures they already have in place.

Teachers and pupils regularly say that they want to do their learning in green and healthy places. It’s a belief encapsulated in the term ‘little lungs matter’.”

Source: Tameside Metropolitan Borough, 03 October 2018

Read Article

North West: Morecambe vape shop’s cessation scheme gains NHS support

A new scheme is aiming to help people stop smoking with the use of e-cigarettes. Up In Smoke, a vape shop in Morecambe, offers a free “pen type e-cigarette” to anyone wishing to try it and has launched a ‘Smokebusters’ scheme support service, which encourages people to visit the premises every week and blow into a Carbon Monoxide (CO) and lung age monitor.

Mike Zorab, general manager at Up In Smoke, explains: “We’ve been backed by Lancashire Quit Squad, which is jointly run by the NHS and Lancashire County Council… Lancaster Quit Squad organised for 20 of their staff to come in for a training session to learn more about e-cigarettes.”

The shop is also working with local NHS organisations to provide e-cigarettes to smokers. Mark Zorab explains that local NHS services are “now referring straight to us as a last resort if patches and gum don’t work. People can come in, fill in a form, there’s a series of questions, and a set of rewards. People have to return every seven days, and if their CO reading has decreased, they get a stamp which can be exchanged for free liquid or vouchers.”

Source: Lancaster Guardian, 04 October 2018

Read Article


Daily Bulletin 4: Framework Convention Alliance at the WHO FCTC conference of the parties

According to today’s bulletin, yesterday “the Committee took a gigantic step forward for FCTC implementation by endorsing the first ever Global Strategy for Tobacco Control. That’s a big deal: identifying priorities from now until 2025, with a clear and ambitious objective of reducing prevalence sharply, will help the COP, the Secretariat and individual Parties organise their work and raise funds.”

The bulletin goes on to add: “As we head into budget and workplan discussions, it’s critical to prioritise activities and funding to reflect our newly agreed Global Strategy – activities that will actually help to close the gap between where we currently stand and the desired future – a world free from tobacco-caused death and disease.”

Other highlights from today’s bulletin include ‘Unlocking the power of tobacco taxes’, ‘In pursuit of viable alternative livlihoods for tobacco farmers and farm workers’ and ‘Escalating the tobacco-free finance conversation’.

Read Bulletin

ASH Daily News for 28 June 2018


  • Belfast: Vaping ban in the grounds of hospitals


  • WTO to rule on landmark tobacco case later today (Thursday 28th June)
  • Tokyo passes tough anti-smoking law ahead of 2020 Olympics
  • China: Court verdict paves way for smokefree railways
  • Study: Breastfeeding mothers stop nursing sooner when living with smokers


Belfast: Vaping ban in the grounds of hospitals

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has strengthened its strict no smoking policy to include no vaping on its hospital grounds. Staff are being warned that they may face disciplinary action if they fail to stick to the rules. Staff have been directed to ask carers and service users who smoke, to refrain from doing so an hour before any scheduled visit and while they are there.

Source: Belfast Telegraph, 27 June 2018

Read Article


WTO to rule on landmark tobacco case later today (Thursday 28th June)

A World Trade Organization adjudication panel will rule today on a dispute over Australia’s tough tobacco packaging rules, widely seen as a test case for public health legislation globally.

The WTO said the ruling in the case, brought against Australia by Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia, would be published at around 1500 GMT. The ruling is expected to be appealed, the WTO’s chief judge has said.

Source: Reuters, 28 June 2018

Read Article

Tokyo passes tough anti-smoking law ahead of 2020 Olympics

Tokyo, Japan’s capital and host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, passed a tough anti-smoking law on Wednesday that will effectively ban smoking in most of the city’s bars and restaurants in the run-up to the games. Japan lags behind many countries in efforts to fight smoking, with attempts to tackle tobacco often stymied by pro-smoking politicians, restaurateurs and Japan Tobacco, which is one-third owned by the government.

The new city law, which takes full effect several months before the Olympics open on July 24, 2020, bans smoking in any bar or restaurant with hired employees.

Source: Reuters, 27 June 2018

Read Article

China: Court verdict paves way for smokefree railways

A provincial court ruled on Tuesday that the Harbin Railway Bureau (of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province) should remove smoking zones and ashtrays in its trains and stations. In June last year, a college student sued the Harbin Railway Bureau because of the secondhand smoke she was forced to inhale on a train. The student claimed compensation of 102.5 yuan ($15.54), the price of her ticket, plus 1 yuan for mental distress, and sought the removal of all the smoking zones and ashtrays in the bureau’s railway stations and trains.

Legal Daily comments: “The judgment is meaningful as it is the first time that a railway department has been instructed by a court to ban smoking in its stations and on the trains it operates, which is directly related to the health and safety of hundreds of millions of passengers.”

According to the Railway Safety Administration Regulation that came into effect on Jan 1, 2014, smoking is strictly banned on high-speed trains and in the carriages of other trains. However, it is permitted in the connecting areas between carriages of non high-speed trains, where ashtrays are often installed. The smoke from these areas often drifts into the carriages, making all passengers exposed to secondhand smoke.

Source: China Daily, 28 June 2018

Read Article

Hong Kong study: Breastfeeding mothers stop nursing sooner when living with smokers

Nursing mothers who live with two or more smokers are more likely to stop breastfeeding sooner than those who live in non-smoking households. In a Hong Kong-based study, researchers discovered that these mothers are at 30% higher risk for ending breastfeeding before a year.

The study examined a cohort of 1,277 mother and baby pairs from four major hospitals in Hong Kong. Researchers used self-reported questionnaires to collect demographic data, parental smoking habits, and other variable data.

Source: Bright Surf, 27 June 2018

See also: Breastfeeding Medicine, The Effects of Secondary Cigarette Smoke from Household Members on Breastfeeding Duration: A Prospective Cohort Study

Read Article

ASH Daily News for 23 May 2018


  • TV show ‘Love Island’ bosses ban cigarettes in the villa and garden for 2018 series
  • Should alcohol follow in the footsteps of cigarettes and enforce health warning labels on packaging?
  • Essex: Maldon District Council backs nine-year-old’s call for smoke-free play areas
  • Coventry: Smoking putting more patients in hospital



  • US: Study finds quitting will improve lung health but smoking fewer does nothing
  • USA: Youtube removes e-cigarette content


Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary Question


TV show ‘Love Island’ bosses ban cigarettes in the villa and garden for 2018 series

In response to complaints from the general public and health charities including ASH, ITV has taken decisive action to ban cigarettes in both the villa and garden.

If a contestant wishes to smoke they will have to ask a producer who will take them to a designated smoking shelter away from the villa, where they will only be able to smoke alone.

Despite this, the smokers will still be filmed as producers hope to capture the drama of the contestants after a row in the smoke shed. The source added: ‘It will still be filmed, but as they’ll be alone, there won’t be as many gossipy moments as last year.’

Source: Daily Mail, 22 May 2018

Read Article


Should alcohol follow in the footsteps of cigarettes and enforce health warning labels on packaging?

The Global Drug Survey (GDS) released details of the biggest ever survey about alcohol labelling in the UK. It found that labelling alcohol with warnings regarding its health dangers could help almost half of the survey’s participants think about drinking less alcohol.

The survey trialled labels based around seven different themes, however the most potent message was “Drinking less reduces your risk of seven types of cancer” with 22% of survey participants saying this would make them think about drinking less, while 26% said it might. More surprising was the fact that 65.5% of females under 25 and 58.7% of males under 25 said this information was news to them.

Deborah Arnott, Chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health agrees with health warning for alcohol, stating “For younger people, the idea that you’re going to die slightly early doesn’t really matter,” she says. “The idea that you’re going to be unable to do the things you enjoy doing is much more challenging. Messages around impotence and fertility are both key for us, and the effect smoking has on the skin.” Smoking rates in this country have been gradually falling through the century and are now at 15.8%.

Source: Vice, 22 May 2018

Read Article


Essex: Maldon District Council backs nine-year-old’s call for smoke-free play areas

New posters have gone on display across parks in the district which ask adults not to smoke in children’s play areas.

The posters were designed, drawn and submitted by nine-year-old Emily from Burnham, who wrote to Maldon District Council about how she didn’t like the smell of cigarettes and wanted to have the children’s play zones in the district as a smoke-free area.

Ben Page, Health Improvement Officer at Maldon District Council, said: “Second hand smoke is especially harmful to children, including reducing lung growth, wheezing and triggering asthma attacks.”

Source: Clacton Gazette, 22 May 2018

Read Article


Coventry: Smoking putting more patients in hospital

The number of Coventry hospital admissions from smoking-related illnesses has risen slightly since 2015.

Figures from Public Health England revealed people were admitted to hospital for smoking-related diseases on 2,583 occasions in 2016-17, that’s a 1.65% increase on 2,541 similar cases in 2015.

Source: Coventry Telegraph, 23 May 2018

Read Article



US: Study finds quitting will improve lung health but smoking fewer does nothing

A new study by Northwestern University, Illinois has found that heavy smokers who quit had lower odds of suffering from lung disease than light smokers.

‘We were surprised to find that those who quit had lower disease risk than the group we identified as stable, low-rate smokers, even though those who quit had a greater lifetime exposure to cigarettes,’ said Dr Amanda Matthew, a research assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Those who continue to smoke 10 cigarettes per day were more likely to develop emphysema than those who used to smoke 20 cigarettes per day or more and have since stopped entirely. Light smokers also suffer a larger decrease in lung function than those who have quit, regardless of how long they smoked for previously.

Experts long-believed that smokers used intermittent smoking as a bridge to quitting. However, one-quarter of all smokers are considered light smokers who have no intention of ceasing their habit.

See also: ATS Journal: Life Course Cigarette Smoking and Lung Health from Young Adulthood to Middle Age: Findings from the CARDIA Lung Study

Source: Daily Mail, 22 May 2018

Read Article


USA: Youtube removes e-cigarette content

Some YouTube reviewers of e-cigarette products have had their content taken down from the platform and in some cases their channels deleted.

This is despite consensus that e-cigarettes reduce the harm associated with smoking. In July, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that it is ‘committed to encouraging innovations that have the potential to make a notable public-health difference’ with regards to smoking.

YouTube has been key to raising awareness about the benefits of vaping among some groups.

Source: Spiked, 23 May 2018

Read Article


Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary Question

Jon Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he plans to deposit the instruments of ratification for the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

Robert Jenrick, The Exchequer Secretary
Answered on: 22 May 2018
The government is fully committed to the Protocol and steps to achieve ratification have begun. Subject to parliamentary approval, the government intends to deposit the instruments of ratification by 2 July 2018. This will enable the UK to participate if there is a first Meeting of the Parties later this year.

Source: Hansard HC, 22 May 2018

Read Question

Regulating the smoke ban 10 years on

As we approach the tenth anniversary of smokefree legislation in England, we are looking at various aspects of the legislation and its impact. This article by Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH, looks at how the legislation is enforced.

As I look back over the past decade since the smoking ban was first introduced, I think we can agree it has been one of the more successful examples of public health legislation.

Smoking rates have declined, visiting places like pubs and restaurants is a more pleasant experience, and non-smokers in the workplace or in public buildings do not have to breathe in second-hand smoke against their will.

To recognise this landmark legislation 10 years on, we’ve been speaking to our members and the wider profession — the very people that enforced the ban when it became law — asking them to reflect on what it was like to get businesses ready, while enquiring what challenges, if any at all, remain today.

We’ve spoken to a wide-range of colleagues from Leicester and Nottingham to Kirklees and Bristol. It was also important we spoke to Environmental Health Professionals (EHPs) in Northern Ireland and Wales as it tends to be the devolved regions who are public health trail blazers.

Across the board, our colleagues have said that implementing the ban was relatively easy. Many local authorities received additional funds from the Government and used this to engage with businesses early on, providing a summary of the new legislation, information about their responsibilities for staff and the public, signage, smoking policies, and how to help staff access cessation services.

Broadly, our members have told us that businesses were happy to comply with the ban. This meant that when 1 July 2007 rolled around, there were relatively few cases of people flouting the new rules.

And where EHPs did find people ignoring the ban, they engaged with the perpetrators and educated them rather than following an enforcement pathway. This reflected the approach of many; that the ban was as much about influencing changes in behaviour rather than stopping people smoking.

But it’s not been completely smooth sailing as sometimes when one problem is solved, others pop up.

We’re being told that shisha bars are causing headaches for many local authorities. Many of the clientele are young people as it’s a fashionable activity to engage in, those taking part are sitting there for hours smoking and staff are also breathing in air dense with smoke. There are clearly health implications of this activity

Wider issues relate to complying with regulations that say 50% of the structure needs to be uncovered. Many owners are originally not from the UK and are not necessarily aware what they need to do when setting up their business, while also getting lost in a myriad of different council departments. Furthermore, some bars have been found to be operating under the radar and naïve of fire safety regulations.

A big problem but many councils are now taking an engagement-led approach where they are talking to shisha bar owners and providing education and guidance to help them get things right.

Another problematic area for EHPs are people who drive for a living and smoke in their work-based vehicles. This group of people think the ban doesn’t apply to them as it’s not a building. The majority of cases have again been dealt with through education but there have been still some occasions where EHPs have to engage in enforcement activity.

Looking back I think the key success for all concerned has been the behavioural change. Colleagues, who now lecture on the subject, have remarked that when they tell their students that people used to smoke at work or in public places, they are incredulous.

It just goes to show that if you get the right blend of education and enforcement then landmark pieces of public health legislation can be comprehensive successes.

My role in the smoking ban

Caroline Flint MP was public health minister from 2005 to 2007 and oversaw the introduction of the smoking ban, which she describes below.

Caroline Flint MP. Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office


On 1 July England celebrated a decade since the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces came into force. It’s been a huge success for public health and today, as smoking is becoming increasingly marginalised, it’s easy to forget just how controversial the ban was at the time.

The numbers are significant. There are around 10% fewer deaths caused by smoking in the over-35s today, compared to 2007. Deaths from strokes are down 14.5%, and heart disease by 20.8%, just because of the decline in smoking, and exposure to secondhand smoke. These are not fractional gains — thousands of lives have been saved, many more improved.

When I became the public health minister, the policy situation was difficult. On the one hand, there was plenty of evidence of the negative health impact of secondhand smoke. On the other, there was nervousness in some quarters that a smoking ban would be seen as a “nanny state” measure, and many were concerned about the effect it may have on the hospitality industry. As a result, some MPs called for pubs that didn’t serve food and private members’ clubs to be exempted.

Quite rightly, the exemptions were labelled by the Health Select Committee, chaired by MP Kevin Barron, as “unfair, inefficient and unworkable”. How do you define food? Where do you draw the line, do crisps count, what about pickled eggs? My department looked at the potential for problems that might result from such legislation and there were plenty. It was also clearly unfair to protect the health of people working in some pubs and not others.

The Opposition agreed to allow a free vote and Kevin Barron and I, with the backing of the chief whip, pushed for the Government to allow a free vote on the issue too. We won, and the exemptions were removed by an overwhelming majority of 200 votes.

We spent eighteen months ensuring that the legislation would be properly implemented. Scotland had already implemented a smoking ban, and we learned a lot from their success. From day one it was supported by the majority of the public and compliance rates were over 98 per cent, and now most smokers too say they support the legislation. Fewer smokers are now smoking in the home in front of their children, something that was of concern to some MPs at the time the legislation was passed. The number of under-16s who smoke is half what it was in 2007.

Clearly, we have come a long way and, a decade on, smoking rates are down to their lowest recorded level at 15.5%. But this is not the end. Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death killing 78,000 people in England last year, and hundreds of children still start smoking every day. But looking back, I’m reminded that politics can make a difference, and not a smoke-filled room in sight.

Caroline Flint is a Labour MP and was Public Health Minister from 2005–2007. You can follow her on Twitter @CarolineFlintMP

Smokefree: The First Ten Years

Produced to mark the tenth anniversary of smokefree legislation in England, this report looks at the shifting public attitudes towards smoking and tobacco control measures over the past decade. The report is based on ten years of data from the ASH / YouGov Smokefree England survey.

Smokefree: the first ten years

England a decade after the smoking ban – heading for a smokefree future

1st July 2017

Since the introduction of smokefree legislation in England ten years ago, there has been significant growth in support for this and other legislation introduced by government, particularly among smokers themselves, reports public health charity ASH.

The last decade has also seen the UK become a world leader in implementation of the World Health Organisation’s tobacco treaty. [1] [2] Our smoking prevalence rates for adults 18+ are now neck and neck with Australia (15.5% in England and 15.6% in Australia) [3] [4], the first country in the world to put cigarettes in standardised ‘plain’ packaging. This is due to a faster decline in smoking in England over the last five years. (Smoking rates in England fell by 0.88 percentage points per annum in compared to 0.57 percentage points per annum in Australia between 2010 and 2016).[5] [6]

The ASH report released today, Smokefree: The First Ten Years, also notes increasing public support for further measures such as a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers and a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for measures to reduce smoking prevalence. The data comes from ten years of the data for England in the ASH Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov. [7]

Back in 2007 when smokefree laws in England came into effect, 78% of all respondents to the survey were in favour. In the ten years since, support has grown to 83%, primarily due to an increase in support from smokers from 40% to 55%. The overall change is entirely due to changing attitudes among smokers – support among non-smokers has been stable.

This pattern is repeated elsewhere. In 2008, 48% of smokers supported a ban on smoking in cars with children. Prior to the implementation of the new law in October 2015, 74% of smokers expressed support, rising to 82% in 2017. The same trend applies to a potential ban on smoking in outdoor children’s play areas. While support for this from non-smokers has grown slightly from 83% of non-smokers in 2009 to 85% this year, support from smokers has strengthened significantly – from 52% of smokers in 2009 to 64% this year.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:
“Over the last decade the ASH YouGov survey is evidence of high, and growing, public appetite for government action to reduce smoking prevalence. It’s especially telling that one of the most important factors in this growth is support by smokers – and this is happening at the same time as the numbers of people smoking have fallen to the lowest on record.”

The public also recognises the need for further action by government, support for which has grown over the last decade. Despite the many measures that have been introduced during this period, the proportion of respondents who think the government is not doing enough to tackle smoking has risen from 29% in 2009 to 39% in 2017. In total in 2017 over three quarters (76%) of adults surveyed support the government’s activities to limit smoking or think they could do more, while only 11% believe that the government is doing too much.

Specifically, there is strong support for:

  • Licensing the sale of tobacco products – supported by 76% of respondents in 2017
  • Banning smoking in all cars – supported by 62% of respondents in 2017
  • Charging tobacco companies a levy to fund measures to reduce smoking prevalence – supported by 71% of respondents in 2017.

Public appetite for further action by government is supported by the evidence. Despite the decline in smoking it remains the leading cause of preventable premature death, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. [8] If current rates of decline are sustained in the general population fewer than one in 20 people will smoke by 2030, but much more needs to be done to reduce health inequalities so that no-one is left behind. The average population smoking rate of 15.5% masks wide differences across the population; for example 40% of those with mental health conditions smoke [9] and 26.5% of those in routine and manual occupations. [10] Every day since the last Tobacco Control Plan for England expired on 31st December 2015, hundreds of under 16s have started smoking. [11]

The evidence of the last decade is that tobacco control policies are popular and effective, when they are part of a comprehensive strategy and are properly funded. ASH is calling on the Government to publish the new Tobacco Control Plan with tough new targets and a commitment to reducing inequalities without further delay.

ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said:
“On 1 July 2007 it will be the 10th anniversary of the implementation of smokefree legislation in England – a worthy date for publication of the next Tobacco Control Plan, with a commitment to delivering a smokefree future for our children.”


Notes and Links

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

The data on public opinion in this press release are taken from Smokefree: The First Ten Years. ASH. June 2017. The full report is available here.

A more detailed briefing on the tenth anniversary of the introduction of smokefree legislation in England is available here on the ASH website

ASH staff are available for interview and for more information and an ISDN line available for interviews. Please contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.


[1] The UK is top of the European Tobacco Control Scale which quantifies the implementation of tobacco control policies at country level, and is based on six policies described by the World Bank.
[2] The UK was given the American Cancer Society tri-annual Luther Terry award in 2015 for exemplary leadership by a government ministry.
[3] Statistics on smoking in England: NHS Digital 2017
[4] National Drug Strategy Household Survey for Australia 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016
[5] Selbie D. It’s time for a truly tobacco free NHS. Public Health England 6 December 2016.
[6] National Drug Strategy Household Survey for Australia 2010 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016
[7] Smokefree: The First Ten Years. ASH. June 2017. Full report available on request from ASH and online from 1 July 2017
ASH Smokefree Survey. These surveys were carried out online by YouGov for ASH
 2007 Total sample size was 1,562 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 19th April 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2008 Total sample size was 1,054 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 25th February 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2009 Total sample size was 10,895 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th – 30th March 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+)
 2015 Total sample size was 10,017 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th February to 12th March 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2017 Total sample size was 10,488 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th February 2017 and 19th March 2017. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
[8] Fair Society, Healthier Lives (The Marmot Review), University College London, 2010
[9] ASH. The Stolen Years. London 2016.
[10] Statistics on smoking in England: NHS England 2017
[11] Hopkinson, NS., Lester-George, A., Ormiston-Smith, N., Cox, A. & Arnott, D. Child uptake of smoking by area across the UK. Thorax 2013. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204379

10 years of smokefree legislation: the facts

It’s ten years since smokefree legislation came into force in England. This briefing outlines some of the key facts.

10 years of smokefree legislation: the facts

10 years of smokefree: a victory for parliament and public health

Bar workers are among those able to enjoy smokefree workplaces since the legislation


This coming weekend marks the tenth anniversary of England going smokefree in all enclosed public places including pubs, bars and private members clubs. It’s hard to imagine now but any legislation, never mind as wide ranging as this, was inconceivable only a few years before it was passed. The government line, supported by the opposition, was that: “We do not think a universal ban on smoking in all public places is justified while we can make fast and substantial progress in partnership with industry.” [1] The “partnership”became the “Public Places Charter”, voluntary, self-regulatory and supported by the main hospitality industry organisations.

Nothing changed as a result of this “partnership”, the number of smokefree pubs could still be counted on the fingers of two hands, and while some large employers took up the challenge to go smokefree, most small businesses did not and half the workforce still had to work in smoky environments. But even though it had become very clear industry was not up to the job, the government refused to change its mind.

So how did what a Labour party official called “an extreme solution”, become what a Labour Minister subsequently called a “historic piece of legislation”, now claimed by all the main political parties as a major achievement for public health?

Parliament is the answer, backed up by strong support from the public and the health community. Following a strong campaign the Government tabled smokefree legislation in 2005, but it still excluded pubs, bars and private members clubs. The Health Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the current vice chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health, Kevin Barron, carried out a detailed scrutiny of the evidence and the legislation and came to the conclusion that the proposed exemptions were ‘unfair, unjust, inefficient and unworkable’. [2] The Committee members then tabled an all Party amendment to the Bill, to remove the exemptions for non-food pubs and private members’ clubs.[3] This cross-party support for the amendments helped convince both the Opposition and the Government to allow a free vote on the issue.

On St Valentine’s day 2006 the House of Commons passed legislation on a free vote to prohibit smoking in all pubs, bars and private members clubs by an overwhelming majority of 200 [4], subsequently upheld in the Lords.

That vote was a major step forward, proving that there was a strong cross-party consensus in both houses for legislative measures to tackle the harm caused by tobacco. In 2010 shortly before the election the Labour Government published an updated tobacco strategy. Only a year later the Coalition government published its own strategy which was very similar to its Labour predecessor, but went further in committing to consult on the introduction of standardised “plain” packaging of tobacco products, a novel measure then only under consideration in one country, Australia.

Following the consultation, in the run up to the election, the Coalition Government initially announced it would not proceed with standardised packaging. At which point parliament again took up its role as the guardian of public health and a cross-party group of peers tabled an amendment to a government bill to introduce standardised packaging. Aware of how strong cross-party support for the measure was, the Coalition Government decided, in line with the precedent established with the smokefree laws, to adopt the amendment.[5] And when the House of Lords passed an amendment to the same Bill to prohibit smoking in cars with children, the Coalition Government allowed a free vote on the measure in the Commons. [6] Both measures were passed by large majorities and are now in force. [7] [8]

Smoking rates have now dropped to their lowest recorded levels in England, [9] but smoking remains a public health epidemic, with hundreds of children starting smoking every day [10] and nearly 100,000 deaths in the UK each year. [11] The last Tobacco Control Plan expired at the end of 2015 and under pressure from Parliament the Government has committed to publishing its successor ‘shortly’ on more than one occasion.[12] [13] When the Government confirmed that standard packs regulations would be put to parliament before the last election [14], the Labour Health Spokesman congratulated the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt who responded by saying “Let’s hope both our children can grow up in a smoke-free generation.” [15] An aspiration we can all support, but if it is to be achieved we need a tough new Tobacco Control Plan mapping the steps to a smokefree future, without further delay.

You can read more information about the anniversary of smokefree legislation here.


[1] Department of Health. Smoking Kills: A White Paper on Tobacco. CM4177. The Stationery Office. 1998.

[2] House of Commons Health Committee. Smoking in Public Places. First report of Session 2005–6 Vols I-lll HC 485–1; HC 485-ll; HC 485-lll

[3]The amendment tabled on 10 January 2006 was supported by the following MPs all members of the Health Select Committee — 5 Labour, 3 Conservative, 1 Liberal Democrat and 1 Independent.

Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP (Labour)

Mr David Amess MP (Conservative)

Charlotte Atkins MP (Labour)

Mr Paul Burstow (Liberal Democrat)

Jim Dowd MP (Labour)

Anne Milton MP (Conservative)

Mike Penning MP (Conservative)

Dr Howard Stoate MP (Labour)

Dr Doug Naysmith MP (Labour)

Dr Richard Taylor MP (Independent)

[4] Public Whip. Health Bill — New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions — private clubs. 14 Feb 2006 at 18:47

[5] Hansard. Written Ministerial Statements. Health: Tobacco Control. 28 Nov 2013 : Column 24WS

[6] BBC Online. Ban on smoking in cars carrying children backed by Lords. 29 January 2014.

[7] Public Whip. Children and Families Bill — Offence of Smoking in a Private Vehicle When A Person Under 18 is Present. 10 Feb 2014 at 19:15

[8] Public Whip. Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. 11 Mar 2015 at 17:53

[9] Statistics on smoking in England: NHS Digital 2017

[10] Hopkinson, NS., Lester-George, A., Ormiston-Smith, N., Cox, A. & Arnott, D. Child uptake of smoking by area across the UK. Thorax 2013. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013–204379

[11] ASH factsheet deaths from smoking

[12] Tobacco: Written question — 69400. Hansard. 18 April 2017

[13] Tobacco: Written question — 269. Hansard. 26 June 2017.

[14] House of Commons Library. Standardised packaging of tobacco products. 22 January 2015.

[15] Tweet interchange between Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham. Twitter. 22 January 2015.

Implementation of the smokefree law

Provides an overview of the smokefree legislation including details of enforcement, exemptions and penalties.

[Download not found]

ASH response to Welsh Government consultation on smoking in prisons

ASH response to Welsh Government consultation on smoking in prisons.