Smoking ban coming to a public house near you?

It looks like it’s only a matter of time before pubs in Britain and NI follow the example of the ROI and become smokefree. Will it be as smooth a transition?Majority of MPs ‘support pub smoking ban’

Have your say in the government’s consultation

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday August 15, 2005

More than two-thirds of MPs want the government to go further than its planned anti-smoking legislation and ban smoking in all pubs, a survey found today.

The government is consulting on legislation to outlaw smoking in all licensed premises which serve food, leaving private members’ clubs and those pubs serving just peanuts and crisps unaffected.

However, according to a poll of MPs conducted for the anti-smoking groups Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), there is a cross-party consensus for a complete ban, similar to those introduced in New York and Ireland and soon to be brought in in Scotland. Doctors and anti-smoking campaigners are hoping that ministers will change their minds and opt for an outright ban.

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The survey of 140 MPs from all parties found that 69% would support a smoke-free law covering all workplaces – including pubs – without the exemptions currently proposed.

More than three-quarters (77%) agreed that a widespread smoke-free law would make it more pleasant to visit public places.

And 75% believed that smoking in workplaces ought to be prohibited to prevent people acting in a way that might harm others.

Some 91% agreed that the government had a responsibility to try to make people’s lives healthier by actively discouraging smoking.

The survey found that support for a smoke-free law had risen sharply since the last parliament, with just 51% of MPs surveyed last year in favour.

The survey included 80 Labour MPs, 45 Conservatives, 22 Liberal Democrats and six MPs from smaller parties in order to reflects the make-up of the Commons.

Campaigners now believe that the vast majority of responses to the government’s consultation, which ends on September 5, will back a comprehensive ban, dropping the current exemptions.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “Support for comprehensive smoke-free 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 second-hand smoke.”

Deborah Arnott, director of Ash, said it was clear from the survey that most MPs – along with most members of the public – now wanted a comprehensive smokefree law.

“This is a critical and overdue public health reform,” she said.

“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.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The proposal in the white paper to make smoke-free bars and pubs that prepare and serve food was based on many factors.

“Public opinion was crucial to the decision that was made and showed that the public were far less supportive of measures to make all bars and pubs smoke-free.

“We are currently consulting on the proposals in the white paper before legislation goes to parliament, and we will look carefully at all the evidence put forward.”

Forest, the smokers’ lobby group, have launched a public awareness campaign aimed at rejecting a statutory ban in favour of more no-smoking zones and better ventilation, which they say it the public’s preferred choice.

According to the government, smoking causes more than 100,000 deaths in the UK each year while treating smoking-related diseases costs the NHS about £1.7bn annually.