Comprehensive smokefree laws considered as victory for public health and parliament

Comprehensive smokefree laws including pubs and bars came into force ten years ago. They are rightly considered a victory for public health and a model of good regulation. But they would not have come into effect without strong cross-party support from parliament.

The original clauses in the Health Bill 2005 included exemptions for pubs which didn’t sell food 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’.

The Select Committee was so concerned that its members tabled an all Party amendment to the Bill, to remove the exemptions for non-food pubs and clubs. This cross party support for the amendments helped convince both the Opposition and the Government to allow a free vote on the issue. The Government then tabled its own New Clause and amendment to the Bill, giving effect to the Committee’s recommendations. The Select Committee MPs withdrew their original amendment at this point. The amendment was passed at the Commons Report Stage of the Bill on a free vote, by a majority of 200.

Bob Blackman MP (Conservative, Chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health) said:

The strong cross party support from the Health Select Committee, backed up by the APPG on Smoking and Health, delivered a massive parliamentary majority on a free vote for the inclusion of pubs and clubs in the smokefree laws. Yet smoking remains the leading cause of preventable premature death, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor, which is why the APPG is calling on the Government to publish its long awaited Tobacco Control Plan.

Kevin Barron MP (Labour, Vice Chair of the APPG, and former Chair of the Health Select Committee 2005-2010) added:

The Government legislation to prohibit smoking in public places included an exemption for the pubs and clubs. It was clear something had to be done as this was where workers were most exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. The Health Select Committee carried out a detailed inquiry to scrutinise the legislation and the amendment we tabled, based on the evidence, ensured bar workers and pub-goers received the protection they deserve.

Professor Paul Burstow (former Liberal Democrat MP, former Chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health and member of the Health Select Committee) commented:

Smokefree legislation was only achieved through the development of a strong cross party political consensus that the harm from tobacco justified government intervention. It is because of that consensus that, most recently, legislation was passed prohibiting smoking in cars with children and putting cigarettes in plain standardized packaging. Smoking rates are now at a record low and parliament should be proud of the role it has played in helping this come to pass.

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