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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 12:57 GMT
Smoking ban proposed for England
Lighted cigarette
A smoking ban was put forward by the Scottish Executive last week
Smoking could be banned in every cafe, restaurant and most pubs in England in four years under plans unveiled by the government on Tuesday.

The White Paper on Public Health plans to make most enclosed public areas, including offices and factories, smoke-free.

Only private clubs, where members voted to allow smoking, and pubs which do not serve prepared food would be exempt.

The White Paper also covers obesity, drinking and sexual and mental health.

The proposals for a smoking ban go further than had been expected. They mean that up to 90% of bars could be smoke-free within a few years.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has signalled that similar measures will be adopted in Wales.

But some opponents of smoking are disappointed that they stop short of an outright ban, while pro-smokers have attacked "an attempt to demonise smokers".

Smoking to be banned in restaurants and offices, but only restricted in pubs
Restrictions on junk food advertising
Traffic light coding for supermarket food
Improved access to sexual health clinics
Clearer labelling on alcohol
Access to 'personal lifestyle gurus' on the NHS

The Scottish Executive put forward a blanket ban on smoking in enclosed public places last week, but Health Secretary John Reid did not go that far in the proposals for England.

Smoking will still be allowed in pubs which limit their food sales to snacks such as crisps, rather than prepared meals.

However, this is still further than the voluntary measures that had been considered by ministers.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Reid pledged to cut the number of people smoking by 2 million over the next five years.

He said: "In a free society, men and women ultimately have the right within the law to choose their own lifestyle, even when it may damage their own health.

"But people do not have the right to damage the health of others, or to impose an intolerable degree of inconvenience or nuisance on others.

Focus on government's key target areas

"We will ensure that people will be able to go to their workplace, or choose to go out for a meal or a drink without the damage, inconvenience or pollution from second-hand smoke.

"This is a sensible solution which balances the protection of the majority with the personal freedom of the minority in England."

Smoking restrictions will be phased in, with a ban on smoking in NHS and government buildings by 2006, in enclosed public places by 2007, and with the restrictions on smoking in licensed premises introduced by the end of 2008.

There will be wide consultation, including with the catering and pro-smoking lobby.

However, Mr Reid stressed that even in pubs where smoking will be allowed, nobody will be able to light up in the bar area.

The government has also proposed legislation to ban retailers who repeatedly sell tobacco products to young people from selling such products, either temporarily or permanently.

Other measures

In the foreword to the White Paper, the government says it wants to create an environment in which people are encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles - but does not believe it is its role to force people to become healthy.

The paper was drawn up after one of the largest public consultations, involving 150,000 people, over the summer.

The Department of Health received more than 1,000 submissions from individuals alone - unheard of for a white paper.

Among other plans are restrictions on junk food advertising and a "traffic light" system showing shoppers how healthy the food they are buying is.

Healthy and unhealthy foods

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Ed Gershon, of the pub chain JD Wetherspoon, said the smoking ban would be good for business.

"The majority of people don't like to be around smoky areas. We think it will bring a lot more people back into pubs long-term."

But the reforms do not impress some campaigners, who had called for more radical measures.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which wants a complete ban on alcohol advertising and smoking in public places, welcomed the traffic light coding proposals.

But Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, was disappointed not to see a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

We support further restrictions but we vehemently oppose what has become a systematic attempt to demonise smokers
Simon Clark, pro-smokers' group Forest

"If this is the case, he [John Reid] will be letting down every infant, child and adult in England," she said.

Deborah Arnott, of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said the proposals might be unworkable.

"We know from Ireland that what makes a ban work is to have a simple, level playing field where you can't smoke in any workplaces."

Pro-smoking campaigners said businesses should be allowed to choose the policy that best suited their staff and customers.

Forest director Simon Clark said most people would be happy with more no-smoking areas and better ventilation.

"They do not want a complete ban on public smoking enforced by an army of tobacco control officers," he said.

"We support further restrictions but we vehemently oppose what has become a systematic attempt to demonise smokers and their perfectly legal habit."

The opposition parties were also sceptical of the impact the government's reforms will have.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "If the Health Secretary admits that passive smoking kills and that there is no safe level of smoke, then there can not be any exceptions for a ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

"Dr Reid must understand that smoking still kills even when you are not eating food."

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the Tories would achieve more and do it more quickly by working with the industry to achieve a "smoke-free environment in the great majority of pubs and restaurants and public places."

How the plans will change Britain's public spaces

Telegraph Nine out of 10 pubs face smoking ban - 6 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Reid offers blueprint for fitness - 7 hrs ago
Irish TimesBritain sets out timetable for ban on smoking - 7 hrs ago
IHT Britain cracks down on public smoking - 8 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Britain Plans Sweeping Smoking Ban - 13 hrs ago
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