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New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions

Part of Orders of the Day — Health Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound PPS (Rt Hon Hazel Blears, Minister of State), Home Office 4:45 pm, 14th February 2006

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as is, I believe, the whole House. So it is "Goodnight Irene" for the walled city of York. However, it must be said that those of us in the wide open spaces of west London seldom consider ourselves enclosed, and very seldom restrained.

There is a desperately serious point. We are trying to do something about public health, and the group of people about whom we are most worried—young people aged between about 11 and 13 who are taking up this habit—are the very people who do not go to pubs. To a large extent, discussing pubs in the context of stopping smoking is nonsense, because in doing so we are not dealing with the people whom we actually want to address. We must never forget the Oscar Wilde quote:

"As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular."

As long as tobacco smoking is seen as this dreadful, wicked thing that film stars do and there are people in pubs doing it, it will be attractive to children. We must address the issue of role models and public practice. Were I a role model, I would plead guilty in this regard, but fortunately I am not. So this is a very serious issue and the question is how we best deal with it. Frankly, as with so many things, there are three different options.

The first is the pure libertarian view, eloquently expressed by Mr. Duncan in his famous book, which is compulsory bedside reading for many of us, that everything should be allowed. That is a legitimate intellectual argument.

The second option is the counter-argument that everything should be banned. Tobacco is bad for people—ban it. Cars are bad for people—ban them. Alcohol is bad for people—ban the lot. Ban everything, and we will subsist on a milk toast diet of muesli as we shuffle through the empty streets of our city, looking for a little stimulation where we may find it.

Those are both perfectly legitimate intellectual arguments: everything bad is banned; everything bad is allowed. Or, we can opt for—dare I say it?—co-existence and compromise. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, let us concentrate on what unites us. Would it not be possible—