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UK stops short of outright smoking ban in enclosed public places

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7506.1468 (Published 23 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1468
  1. Kaye McIntosh
  1. London

    The UK government has stopped short of banning smoking in all enclosed public places. Detailed proposals unveiled this week will still allow smoking in pubs and clubs that don't serve chilled or hot food.

    The minister for public health, Caroline Flint, admitted that doctors would be “disappointed” by the failure to introduce an outright ban on smoking in enclosed public places. But she added: “Clearly there are people in the medical profession who would prefer an outright ban, but when we undertook consultation as part of the Choosing Health white paper it was clear that people felt government should act but that there should be exceptions, as smoking is legal.”

    She defended the proposals, saying: “When the legislation is on the statute book we will have 99% of workplaces smoke free [and] most public places smoke free, with a few exceptions.”

    Government research showed that just 20% of people favour an outright ban in pubs, she added. Pubs and clubs serving food, shopping centres, betting shops, and train and bus stations will be covered by the ban.

    But a BMA report published in May, Booze, Fags, and Food, estimated that in some areas 80% of pubs do not serve food and could still allow smoking after the ban comes into force in 2008. In the prime minister's own constituency, Sedgefield in County Durham, a third of pubs do not serve food.

    Ms Flint admitted that between 10% and 30% of licensed premises nationally would be exempt from the ban. “We need to look at health inequalities. It is a question we have to ask ourselves about why our health communication is not being taken up by some communities,” she said.

    The BMA's deputy chairman, Sam Everington, said: “The arguments about the effects of secondhand smoke have been won, and the government accepts this. Given it is acknowledged that secondhand smoke kills, the lives and health of employees must be the priority.”

    “It should not matter where an employee works. Whether someone works in an office or a non-food pub, they have a right to have their health protected at work,” he continued.

    Patients in psychiatric units and hospitals and hospices for adults will still be allowed to smoke, despite the government's pledge to achieve a smoke-free NHS by 2006.

    The proposals, which go out to consultation until 5 September, will shape elements of the Health Improvement and Protection Bill. Smokers will face fines of £50, while managers of premises that fail to prevent smoking could be fined up to £200 under the proposals.

    The ban will come into force by 2007 for most enclosed public places and 2008 for pubs and clubs, except those not serving food.

    Ireland already has a ban on smoking in all pubs and bars, while Scotland is planning a ban next year.

    FOREST, which supports smokers' freedom, has criticised the proposed ban in England. Its director, Simon Clarke, said: “Punitive legislation is unwelcome and unnecessary and would infringe the rights of thousands of people, including publicans and restaurateurs.”

    See www.dh.gov.uk/Consultations/LiveConsultations

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