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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No smoke without fire

The vote in favour of a complete smoking ban in England in the House of Commons last night is a major step forward, even though its reasoning is ill-defined. The issue, as I reminded one of my parliamentary colleagues, should not be about making health choices for people, but about the health and safety of employees in their place of work.

This morning's Western Mail seeks to raise the timing of the ban in Wales, suggesting that we might put it off until after the Assembly elections. There may well be politicians who would take account of such considerations. However, the report of the Committee on Smoking in Public Places was very clear about the timescale and the lessons to be learnt from Ireland.

In the Irish Republic there was a delay of at least a year between getting the legislation onto the statute book and the implementation of a ban. One of the reasons for this was the need for the ban to hit home immediately. It was essential that all the regulations were in place, that the relevant authorities were adequately resourced to enforce it, that a public information campaign was put in place and that current campaigns to assist people give up the weed were beefed up. The other consideration was that the ban should be introduced in good weather so as to help people get used to taking their habit outside.

The evidence in Ireland is that the ban caused a reduction in cigarette sales, an increase in the number of people giving up smoking and no effective increase in people smoking at home as is feared by some opponents.

In Wales, we have to wait for the current bill to make the statute book before drawing up our own legislation. It is unlikely therefore that this will even be debated until autumn 2006. I cannot see a ban being implemented in Wales therefore much before summer 2007. When it does happen it will be very welcome.
Whats your opinion on the fact that the smoking ban will not come into effect in the bars of the palace of westminster.

i understand that smoking is banned in many of these bars already but the few which still permit smoking will not be compelled to stop under the new legislation because the building being a royal palace makes it exempt from the law.

My opinion is that they should not be exempt from the ban.
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