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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 13:54 GMT
Smoke ban is gimmick, say Tories
Smoker
Smoking could be banned in up to 80% of public places
The plan to ban smoking in most pubs and restaurants is an ineffective "gimmick" which would have "unintended consequences", the Tories have said.

The government has unveiled plans to ban smoking where food is served.

The Liberal Democrats welcome the proposed ban but argued it should be imposed in all enclosed public spaces.

But Tory former health secretary Ken Clarke blasted the "puritanical" attitudes of health campaigners who he said had forced the ban.

'World gone mad'

Mr Clarke, a cigar smoker and deputy chairman of British American Tobacco, said the new law would be an unnecessary expansion of government power into an area of personal responsibility.

Once you're hooked, you're hooked - and it is up to us to help them get off it
Frank Dobson
Former Labour health secretary

"I think the world has gone slightly mad," he told BBC News.

"I would prefer to live in a society where these things are not the responsibility of government. My lifestyle has nothing to do with the present secretary of state for health."

The public health white paper, which was published in the Commons earlier on Tuesday, proposes severely restricting the places in England where tobacco is allowed.

Addiction

Labour ex-health secretary Frank Dobson said he strongly supported the bulk of what the government was planning.

EXPECTED HEALTH REFORMS
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

But he said pubs not serving food should be tackled first as they are where young working class people are most likely to be.

And, he added, any smoking ban was not about lifestyle choices but dealing with addiction.

"Once you're hooked, you're hooked. And it is up to us to help them get off it," Mr Dobson said.

But Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley argued a voluntary agreement with the industry would achieve better results than a legislative ban.

He said: "We would work with the industry to achieve a smoke-free environment in the great majority of pubs, restaurants and public places."

The Tories would "particularly press" the industry to deliver more smoke-free environments where children had access.

'Gimmicks'

"The problem with what the government is proposing is not only that it will probably mean further delay but more importantly there's a risk that smokers who would otherwise be in pubs would go home and smoke.

"So if what we have has a result is smokers smoking in front of children then actually we do more harm rather than good by it."

Pointing to the Irish example, where smoking is banned in all public places, he said pub takings had gone down and off-licence sales risen.

"We have got enormous problems with public health and the government are simply failing to tackles this.

Instead it was "going for gimmicks" and "nanny state solutions" when a voluntary solution would deliver public health benefits, Mr Lansley added.

'At risk'

Lib Dem health spokesman Paul Burstow welcomed the proposed ban but said he was disappointed it was not being extended to all enclosed public places.

"There's no level of ventilation possible that will make the environment a safer one for the staff working in these pubs.

"We are not talking about individuals who are exercising choice. We are talking about staff working in pubs.

It was not right to put their health and safety at risk in this way, he added.




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