Government launches consultation on smoking proposals

The government is to begin consultation on proposals to ban smoking in most public places in England.

The government hopes that the consultation will lead to a Bill being introduced in the autumn.

The ‘Choosing Health’ Public Health White Paper published last November, unveiled proposals to ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces. All restaurants, as well as pubs and bars where food is served, would also become smoke-free. However, other bars and pubs would not be forced to bring in a ban and private members’ clubs would also be allowed to choose whether or not to allow smoking on the premises.

The government hopes to introduce the ban on smoking on all enclosed public spaces and workplaces by the end of 2007, with legislation introduced for licensed premises by the end of 2008.

However, critics of the proposals, including anti-smoking lobby group Ash and the British Medical Association have argued that the proposals do not go far enough.

Speaking at the launch of the consultation, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: “The measures set out in ‘Choosing Health’ will save thousands of lives in England, reducing deaths from cancer, heart disease and diseases that smoking causes.

The vast majority of workplaces will be smoke-free, reducing the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

Government wants to hear from groups, particularly businesses, on the practicalities of the proposals, so we end up with workable, consensus measures which become law.”

However, Ash is urging the government to introduce a total smoking ban in public places, claiming that exemptions would be hard to enforce and would make the legislation “unnecessarily complicated” and undermine the public health benefits. Ash director Deborah Arnott said: “The government was always obliged to consult on the proposals as included in their election manifesto, which allowed for exemptions for some pubs and clubs. But it is clear that the exemptions are unworkable, would undermine the health benefits of the legislation and have no support at all from the hospitality trade. We are confident they will be dropped once the government assesses the result of the consultation process.

“We are now within sight of the most important public health reform for thirty years. Ending smoking in every workplace will protect non-smokers from the damaging effects of other people’s smoke and will encourage thousands of smokers to quit their lethal habit.”


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