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UK Parliament approves public smoking ban

The British Parliament approved on Tuesday a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces in England, following similar moves in Ireland and other European countries.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 02:54 IST

The British Parliament approved on Tuesday a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces in England, following similar moves in Ireland and other European countries.

The blanket ban - which comes into force in mid-2007 and applies to smoking in pubs, bars, private clubs, restaurants and workplaces - heralds a major change in Britain, where one in four adults smokes.

The House of Commons voted by 384 votes to 184 in favour of the ban.

Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has passed a similar law, which will take effect in April 2007, while smoking in public places in Scotland will become an offence from next month.

Ireland, Italy, Norway, Malta and Sweden have also outlawed smoking in public places.

An opinion poll conducted last year showed that a ban was favoured by more than 70 per cent of people in Britain, where tobacco claims the lives of more than 100,000 people a year even though the number of smokers has halved in the past three decades.

In the 1980s, Britain was a pioneer in requiring warnings on packets of cigarettes, and imposing heavy taxes on their sale. A packet of 20 cigarettes today costs about five pounds ($8.60) in Britain, while in neighbouring France it costs just five euros.

On Tuesday members of Parliament (MPs) chose the most stringent of the three options put forward in the Health Bill.

The others were to allow smoking in private clubs and pubs which do not serve food - which was the government policy outlined in last year's election manifesto - or ban it from all pubs but leave private clubs exempt.

An exemption for clubs would have infuriated pub landlords in England. They feared they would lose business because smokers would take their custom to the 20,000-odd private clubs in the country.

Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is expected to succeed him as head of the government, voted for the all-out ban, their spokesmen said.

Premises which ignore the ban will face a fine of up to 2,500 pounds, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint announced. The maximum fine had initially been set at 200 pounds.

Doctor Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics and science at the British Medical Association, welcomed the result.

"We are delighted that MPs have opted to put the lives and health of their constituents first and vote for a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in England.

"Every day around 30 people die in the UK as a result of second-hand smoke. Today's vote will mean the beginning of the end to these frightening statistics."

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, agreed.

"This is a victory for all those who have campaigned tirelessly to improve public health," she said. "Smoking is a huge problem in the UK, accounting for around 114,000 deaths every year.

"Exposure to second-hand smoke at work is estimated to cause the death of more than two employed persons per working day across the UK as a whole," she added.

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 02:45 IST