Smoking (Restaurants) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 14th April 2003.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:19 pm, 14th April 2003

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit smoking in cafés and restaurants;
and for connected purposes.

I am lucky to represent a constituency that has many excellent restaurants and cafés that I could commend to the House. Among them is the superb Friends restaurant in Pinner, where Harrow's very own celebrity chef, Terry Farr—featured in no less than The Observer food supplement—supports Government action to ban smoking in cafés and restaurants. Indeed, restaurants such as Friends, and Rules, which is already smoke free and which won this year's British restaurant of the year award, are one reason why London's restaurants are rated among the world's best.

The one concern about London's restaurants is that, unlike those of California, New York, Ottawa and, soon, Dublin, there are no controls on whether smoking is allowed. I recognise that since 1997 the Government have initiated a series of strong measures to begin to tackle the public health hazard posed by tobacco smoke. The ban on tobacco advertising, the White Paper "Smoking Kills", and the 42 tobacco control alliances in England that raise awareness and work to increase the number of smoke-free environments are all good examples of the work that the Government have in hand. However, I want my Front-Bench colleagues to go just a little further.

Medical and scientific evidence confirming the health hazard of passive or second-hand smoke has been accepted for some time by all except those who are funded by the tobacco trade or who are part of it. The British Medical Association estimates that at least 1,000 people die from exposure to second-hand smoke each year. Evidence from numerous independent, authoritative studies, including one from the Government's science and health advisory committee, has shown that second-hand smoke is a cause of lung cancer, coronary heart disease and strokes in adults as well as cot death, middle ear disease, respiratory infections and the development of asthma in children.

Just 30 minutes of exposure to second-hand smoke is enough to reduce blood flow to the heart. A non-smoker regularly exposed to second-hand smoke faces a 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. greater risk of lung cancer than a non-smoker who has not been similarly exposed. The most recent analysis of the impact of second-hand smoke on health estimates the number of annual deaths from second-hand smoke in the United Kingdom at 12,000—a figure comparable to that for those who died as a result of the great London smog 50 years ago. The figure is also greater than the 10,000 occupational deaths in the UK each year, and it is triple the 3,500 annual deaths from traffic accidents.

Increasing the number of smoke-free environments is clearly sensible and would protect the health of non-smokers. Making smoking less of a social norm can only help current and potential smokers to fight their addiction. The Government recognised early the need for action and commissioned the Health and Safety Executive to draft an approved code of practice on passive smoking at work. The draft code was ready for introduction in 1999, but it has yet to emerge into the light. The excellent Action on Smoking and Health and the TUC have highlighted the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, which places a general duty of care on employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. We need the Government to take further action through an approved code of practice or through legislation to ensure smoke-free workplaces if we are properly to protect those who work in the hospitality industry, restaurants and cafés from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

A study of non-smoking employees in the hospitality industry in Australia found that after at least four hours work, employees had four times the carbon monoxide levels of workers in a smoke-free workplace. One third of those studied had carbon monoxide levels consistent with light smoker status. A University college London study in 2001 went further, showing that workers in the hospitality industry in London had levels of second-hand smoke seven times greater than that of the average English non-smoker. Similarly, a study of California bar workers showed that respiratory health among both smokers and non-smokers improved measurably after smoking was banned in Californian workplaces.

Governments have, over the years, recognised the need to protect the health and safety of employees at work. Considerable effort has been made to deal with the risk of exposure to asbestos, for example. Yet second-hand smoke offers a greater threat to the health of workers than asbestos does. Some in the restaurant trade, already concerned about the impact of passive smoke, have made their restaurants smoke free, and I welcome that. Others who want to be smoke free worry about the proximity of competitors who would allow smokers, and have instead considered the option of ventilation. However, the evidence from America is that ventilation does not work. For that reason, the World Health Organisation concluded some three years ago that there was no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and that better ventilation on its own could not achieve a smoke-free workplace. Indeed, the current industry initiative—the public places charter, whose self-stated aim is to resolve the public smoking issue through ventilation and/or no-smoking areas—makes absolutely no attempt to set a level of second-hand smoke that is safe by occupational or environmental health standards, or a level that restaurant owners who adopt the charter should ensure is not breached in their premises.

Acknowledging those issues, some in the hospitality industry are beginning to speak out for a ban. Mr. David Elliott, who is the managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, highlighted in December the many major cities in the world that have already established a smoking ban with no adverse impact on restaurant owners' incomes. He also noted the impact of nicotine on the fabric of business premises and speculated on the reduction in refurbishment and redecoration costs that a ban on smoking would deliver. Evidence from California shows that sales continued to increase after the state's ban was introduced.

The excellent Smoke Free London yesterday published a MORI opinion poll showing that almost a third of those surveyed would be more likely to dine out more frequently if they knew that restaurants would be smoke-free. The poll also showed that some three quarters of people thought that staff working in cafés and restaurants should be able to work in a smoke-free environment.

One of the more miserable arguments that I have heard against a ban is, and I paraphrase, that it would be the nanny state trampling over the rights of individuals to enjoy a smoke or of the individual restaurant owner to run their business in the way that they see fit. It is time that we recognised that second-hand smoke is now the main source of air pollution indoors; that it has an impact on health beyond that of the individual smoker; and that, given the number of deaths and diseases that passive smoking causes, and given the impact that second-hand smoke has on the health of employees, it is surely right for this state to follow the example of so many others and legislate for a ban. We do not allow business men and women to get away with other forms of pollution, and there are already many reasonable duties on employers to protect the health and safety of their work force. This issue is surely no different.

Many MPs have campaigned successfully for the Government to tackle air pollution outside. Now is surely the time for us to take serious action on indoor air pollution. One hundred MPs from all parties—and I am grateful to them—have told me that they support this proposal. Some, such as my right hon. Friend Mr. Barron, my hon. Friend Mr. Sheerman and my hon. Friend David Taylor, have been campaigning hard on this issue for some time now. Countries such as France, Norway and Ireland, and states in America such as California, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York, have already taken similar steps. There must be something in a proposal that both American and French legislators agree on at the moment.

A ban on smoking will not harm restaurant and café owners' incomes; it may even increase their sales and reduce their costs. This is surely a sensible public health measure to protect the health of British workers and the public more generally. It has already been road-tested for us by a number of other countries. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Independent Conservative, Basingstoke 5:28 pm, 14th April 2003

With a declarable interest as a member of the Lords and Commons pipe and cigar and smokers club, I beg to oppose this motion on the grounds that it is illiberal nonsense and wholly unnecessary. Scientific evidence does not justify it; self-regulation is working perfectly well. The health case that Mr. Thomas and others try to present is not justified on available evidence. The majority of workplaces and public places in this country already operate a smoking policy—either being non-smoking entirely, or having designated smoking areas. Such schemes work perfectly well. They are voluntary and do not need the backing of statute. The hon. Member would be well advised to re-read the 1998 White Paper and the firm conclusion drawn therein that no new legislation was necessary. No one is compelled to smoke in any bar, restaurant or hotel. If people object to the smoking policy—[Interruption.]

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the House must listen to his speech with the same degree of respect with which it listened to the first speech.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter Independent Conservative, Basingstoke

I was pointing out that no one is compelled to frequent any bar, restaurant or hotel. If they do not like the smoking policy, they need not go there. If they do not like the music, they need not go there. If they do not like the patron, they need not go there.

In short, the prohibition of smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants by means of legislation is not required. Scientific evidence does not demand a total ban. Self-regulation works. We need nothing more—it is a question of freedom and choice.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 115, Noes 43.

Division number 162 Smoking (Restaurants) Bill

Aye: 115 MPs

No: 43 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 497 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gareth Thomas, David Taylor, Mr. Kevin Barron, Paul Clark, Phil Hope, Colin Burgon, Mr. Terry Rooney, Kali Mountford, Mr. Mark Todd, Mr. Mark Hendrick, Hugh Bayley and Michael Fabricant.