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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Labour considering smoking ban
An Irish smoker lights his last cigarette before the ban
Labour insist that a final decision on a ban has not been made
Labour is considering introducing a ban on smoking in public places if they win the next election, a report suggests.

According to draft manifesto policy documents obtained by the Guardian the ban is being discussed to protect the health of children and young people.

A Labour spokesman confirmed that the idea was being considered, but insisted that no decision has yet been taken.

The report comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) called for such a ban to be introduced across the UK.

And it comes as scientists claim that passive smoking could be twice as harmful as previously feared.

Local decisions?

Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this month said the government was considering a ban and would reach a conclusion in the "next few months".

Mr Blair said: "You have got to have some balanced decision making in this and it's a difficult balance."

He hinted the decision might ultimately be left to local councils to decide whether to enforce a ban in their areas.

The true effects of passive smoking may have been underestimated by concentrating on partner exposure
Professor Peter Whincup
St George's Hospital Medical School

The issue could provoke divisions within Labour. Health Secretary John Reid has already voiced concern that medical groups want to ban smoking to reduce the number of poorer people smoking.

Dr Reid earlier this year said: "All I say is be careful, please be careful that we don't patronise people.

"As my mother would put it, people from those lower socio-economic categories have very few pleasures in life and one of them they regard as smoking."

'Courage needed'

New research by London's St George's and Royal Free hospitals claims that people exposed to passive smoke have a 50-60% increased risk of heart disease.

The deputy chairman of the BMA Board of Sciences called for smoking to be prohibited in public places and the workplace at the BMA's annual conference.

I've ruled nothing in and nothing out
John Reid
Health Secretary

Dr Peter Maguire told delegates in Llandudno: "The British government needs to have courage and follow the lead of Ireland, New York and Norway.

"I have seen that the ban on smoking in public places in Ireland has not affected business - business is booming there. Smoke free places mean life not death."

The Labour policy document discusses various health measures, including a clamp down on binge drinking and a ban on advertising junk food to children, according to the Guardian.

Talks continue

The newspaper claims the section on smoking concludes: "The need to protect young people and children is seen as of paramount importance."

A spokesman for the Labour Party stressed that no final decision had been made.

He said: "The draft document reflects the concerns raised by party members on this issue, but does not draw definitive conclusions.

"Smoking in public places is an issue the party is discussing, but hasn't decided upon yet."

Smoking in the work place has been outlawed in the Republic of Ireland since March this year.

Dr Reid told BBC 2's Daily Politics on Wednesday that consultations had been running for the last three months on tackling smoking, obesity and sexually-transmitted infections.

He said: "I've ruled nothing in and nothing out. You will find out what we have decided in about October when the White Paper comes out."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"New Labour denies reports that a smoking ban will form part of its next manifesto"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Passive smoking
25 Nov 03  |  Medical notes
Ireland's smoking ban 'a success'
31 May 04  |  Business
Smoking at work 'kills hundreds'
16 May 04  |  Health
Workplace smoke ban wins support
07 Apr 04  |  Scotland


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