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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Smoking ban passes first test
100 MPs back the bill
A Labour MP has won a vote to introduce a bill to secure a ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants.

Gareth Thomas's Smoking (Restaurants) Bill will prevent people from lighting up in any premises that sells food.

He says the measure is necessary to reduce the 12,000 deaths from heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems as a direct result of breathing in second-hand smoke.

On Monday, MPs voted to introduce the bill by 115 votes to 43. It will now receive its Second Reading on 11 July.

By making smoking less of a social norm, it can only help current and potential smokers fight their addiction
Gareth Thomas
But senior Tory MP Andrew Hunter, a member of the Lords and Commons cigar and pipe smoking club, described the move as "illiberal nonsense and wholly unnecessary".

Mr Thomas, MP for Harrow West, said the only people who would question the health risk of passive smoking were those who funded it or were part of the trade.

Protects non-smokers

"Just 30 minutes' exposure to second-hand smoke is enough to reduce blood flow to the heart," he said.

"A non-smoker regularly exposed to second-hand smoke has a 20-30% increased risk of lung cancer compared to a non smoker not similarly exposed."

No-one is compelled to smoke in any bar, restaurant or hotel - if they don't like the smoking policy, they needn't go there
Andrew Hunter
Mr Thomas stressed: "Increasing the number of smoke-free environments is clearly sensible, protecting... the health of non-smokers.

"And by making smoking less of a social norm, it can only help current and potential smokers fight their addiction."

Mr Thomas's bill has the support of 100 MPs, plus anti-tobacco groups ASH and SmokeFree London, but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.

Air pollution indoors

The MP said a University College of London study in 2001 showed hospitality industry workers in London had smoke levels seven times greater than the average non-smoker.

"Given the number of deaths and disease passive smoking causes... it is surely right for this state to follow the example of so many others to legislate for a ban."

Gareth Thomas
Bill will give people 'incentive to give up the habit'
But Mr Hunter, MP for Basingstoke, countered that scientific evidence "does not justify" a smoking ban, saying that "self-regulation is working perfectly well".

"No-one is compelled to smoke in any bar, restaurant or hotel - if they don't like the smoking policy, they needn't go there."

But Judith Watt, of SmokeFree London, said restaurants needed to act now if they did not want to lose customers "fed up with breathing in toxic fumes from other people's cigarettes".

Bar worker deaths

According to a MORI survey commissioned by the organisation, 53% of Britons, including smokers, want to eat in totally smoke-free environments.

Only 4% thought smoking in restaurants should be unrestricted.

James Repace, the US-based passive smoking expert, estimates 165 bar workers die annually from inhaling customers' smoke.

Passive smoking also kills more than 600 office workers and 145 manufacturing workers each year.

But Simon Clark of Forest, the "voice and friend of the smoker", described the bill as the work of a "small group of fanatical anti-smokers ... who basically want to interfere, not just with people's lives, but people's businesses".

New York at night
The city that never sleeps has a smoking ban
"Restaurants, cafes, even pubs, are private businesses and therefore the owners have to have the freedom to choose a policy on smoking that best suits their business.

"It has got nothing to do with fanatics, non-smokers or politicians.

"If smoking was banned completely takings would go down and a lot of cafes and restaurants would go out of business."

Last month New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking from the city's 13,000 bars and restaurants.

In 1998, a complete ban on smoking in public places came into effect in California, the first American state to institute such a measure.

Last smoke in New York
30 Mar 03 |  Americas
Smoking extinguished in Irish pubs
30 Jan 03 |  Northern Ireland
No-smoking in California
01 Jan 98 |  Americas

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