Clause 1 - Smoke-free premises, places and vehicles

Part of Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 6th December 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 11:45 am, 6th December 2005

That underpins an amendment that the hon. Gentleman has tabled. It suggests that if there were a Conservative Government, we would have a system under which with voluntary bans would be allowed to continue. When we discuss that amendment I shall explain why we shall not accept it. It would not help to move the agenda forward. It would raise more questions about how to determine whether someone had self-regulated to a proper extent to reduce smoking environments, as well as a lot of issues in connection with regulations—but we shall come to that when we deal with the amendment.

Now I want to say a little about clause 1 and our definition of smoking, which was picked up by the hon. Member for Northavon. The definition of smoking covers being in possession of tobacco, substances that include tobacco or other substances that are alight. That means that the Bill will cover non-tobacco cigarettes, such as herbal cigarettes, and that being in possession of any sort of lit substance—for example, smoking a hookah pipe—would be classified as smoking. We have included non-tobacco products following consultation responses, which pointed to published evidence of the harmful emissions from non-tobacco cigarettes. I think that that was provided by Action on Smoking and Health.

We also received consultation responses that recommended widening the definition to allow easier enforcement. With a narrow definition involving only tobacco, there is a risk that smokers will claim that their cigarette is herbal, which would result in dispute and practical enforcement problems for both the owner of the premises and the enforcement officers. That has been a problem in Ireland, which did not have such a definition to start with. We do not want enforcement officers to have to send cigarettes for testing, at a cost disproportionate to the offence, or altercations between members of the public, or premises owners and members of the public, over whether a cigarette is tobacco or herbal based. I hope   that I have answered questions sufficiently. I will follow up in writing some of the points raised this morning.