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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

It is clear that two of us here read the Irish Medical Journal. The figures show that there has been a continuing decline in the numbers of smokers over the past five years. There is no statistical evidence to suggest that the numbers have risen since the smoking ban was introduced. The long Kondratiev cycle has to be borne in mind, but five years is statistically significant.

I do not want to detain the House, but I appeal to hon. Members to think about the practicalities. A total ban will not make tobacco disappear, but coexistence is possible. I accept that we would prefer not to have either tobacco or smokers, but in fact we have both.

Earlier, I mentioned the smoke-free cowl on the Upper Committee Corridor, but now I refer the House to the dystopic hell—"Hernando's Hideaway"—that is the smoking room on the Library Corridor. It is like the "Raft of the Medusa" most nights, with great groups of people crammed into it. The air there is a little much even for my fragile lungs.

We need sanity and sense. This debate has stirred great emotions, but talking about dead bodies littering the streets, adopting an absolute position and saying that smoking will disappear if it is banned are not good ways to approach the matter. We must accept the reality of tobacco's existence and try to mitigate the nuisance and annoyance that it causes. We must protect young people from tobacco smoke and stop them taking up smoking, but for heaven's sake we must not make matters much worse by introducing legislation that Draco the lawgiver would have felt was too extreme.