Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): For quite some time now the Bro Morgannwg NHS trust, which covers the Bridgend, Neath and Port Talbot county boroughs, has had a similar policy.

Julie Morgan: Many workplaces are implementing such a policy on a voluntary basis, but we have not succeeded in getting them to do so everywhere.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I appreciate the point that the hon. Lady makes about NHS trusts, and mine has implemented such a policy, but does she agree that special considerations need to be applied when dealing with mental health trusts? The incidence of smoking among people with mental illness is much higher, and to take someone with mental illness into a secure unit that has banned smoking is positively dangerous in some circumstances, and not conducive to the treatment that they need. It is not advantageous that they smoke, but to stop them could be disadvantageous to their treatment for their mental illness.

Julie Morgan: The hon. Gentleman makes an important intervention, but I do not think that there is any evidence to suggest that stopping smoking will cause damage in the way that he suggests, and among the NHS trusts that have become smoke free there is a psychiatric unit. However, I agree that we must take that into consideration in any detailed consideration of the Bill or any other proposal.
18 Mar 2005 : Column 505

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): Does the hon. Lady agree that people with a mental illness suffer a double jeopardy, in that they not only suffer mental illness, but as such a large percentage of them smoke, they also suffer the physical ill effects of that? Is that not something that we should counter, possibly with this Bill?

Julie Morgan: Yes, people who have a mental illness also need protection from smoke, but I accept that we must approach the matter carefully. I take on board some of the points made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), but if we are to challenge health inequalities, we cannot leave out some of the most vulnerable people in society, who suffer from mental illness.

Derek Wanless has done a lot of work on health inequalities, and in his excellent report to the Government on public health issues he estimated that a complete end to smoking in all workplaces could cut smoking prevalence rates by up to 4 per cent., and across the UK that would mean a fall from around one in four to one in five of the adult population, and thousands of lives would be saved as a result. The Bill is about saving lives, and that is why I chose it. It deals with an important public health issue; it is the one thing that we can do via legislation that can have a huge impact on the public and on the health service. It is a very important measure.

I accept that we cannot simply tell people what to do for their own good. Much as we want to encourage people not to smoke, we cannot force them to quit. They have the right to smoke should they wish to do so, and the Bill is not an attack on smokers. Let smokers smoke if they are unable to give up and if we have offered them every help that they may want and ask for, but do not let their smoking affect other people. That is the key issue. Smokers affect other people's lives, and if people are to smoke they should do so where other people are not affected. The Bill is not about forcing people not to smoke, but about giving the National Assembly the powers for which it has asked to require people not to smoke when their habit would damage the health of others. It is about allowing the Assembly the option to do what the Scottish Executive has already decided to do—an inspiring and welcome decision to all those who care about public health, which was overwhelmingly supported by the public in Scotland.

Mr. Garnier: The hon. Lady says that the Welsh Assembly has asked for this legislation. Was there a formal request from a Committee, or did the entire membership, or the majority of the membership, pass a particular motion within the Assembly, or is that simply her understanding of the majority feeling within the membership of the Assembly?

Julie Morgan: It is a mixture of both, and I shall deal with that subject later in my speech.

I shall not speak at length about the scientific evidence on second-hand smoke. The case has been made, I do not think that many people challenge it, and it is almost universally accepted. I simply point out that tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals in the form of particles and gases, some 60 of which are known or
18 Mar 2005 : Column 506
suspected carcinogens, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

The scientific evidence is well summarised in the latest report of the Government's own Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, which comprises 15 of the most eminent medical experts in the country. The report was published along with the White Paper on public health in November last year. The committee reported that exposure to second-hand smoke increased the risk of contracting lung cancer and heart disease by about a quarter. That is very damning evidence. The committee described second-hand smoke as

and as

The report concludes:

Surely it behoves us to do something about that. The report was very decisive, and it is our duty as politicians to ensure that its recommendations are taken up.

Of course, not everybody accepts that evidence. The latest annual report of British American Tobacco still claims that

That wilful refusal to accept scientific evidence is aped by tobacco industry-funded pressure groups such as Forest, which came to the public meeting that I held in my constituency. Its representative refused to accept the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion.

Using the Government committee's figures, Professor Konrad Jamrozik of the university of Queensland has estimated in the British Medical Journal that exposure to other people's smoke in the workplace causes more than 600 premature deaths across the UK every year. That can be compared with the total number of deaths in the UK from all industrial accidents, which the Health and Safety Executive reported to be 235 in 2003. We can add to the figures for premature deaths the evidence that second-hand smoke causes many thousands of episodes of illness. For example, a recent Department of Health survey shows that people who are exposed to other people's tobacco smoke for six or more hours a week are 50 per cent. more likely than those who are not exposed in that way to develop asthma symptoms and breathlessness, coughing and wheezing.

At the public meeting that I held, one woman said that she was very nervous about coming to the meeting because she was afraid that somebody might light a cigarette in defiance. She said that she would virtually collapse if cigarette smoke affected her, and she was very frightened about going out to any public place. I also feel very strongly about this matter, as three members of my close family are asthmatics, and I know the effect that going into a smoky room can have, with streaming eyes and coughing. It seems very unfair that people are unable to benefit from smoke-free air when they go out for the evening, for example.

Asthma UK states that one in five people with asthma are prevented from using parts of their workplace where people smoke because of cigarette fumes. Cigarette
18 Mar 2005 : Column 507
smoke is the second most common asthma trigger in the workplace. In the face of that, who can deny that smoking is a major workplace health and safety issue? Who can deny that employees who are regularly exposed to other people's smoke day after day and night after night are at real risk? That is why the Government committee singled out bar staff, for example, as an occupational group that is heavily exposed to this unnecessary and serious hazard. When we go into bars in city centres, which are often frequented by very young people, there is a fog of smoke. Those young people are spending many hours in that smoky atmosphere, so bars are a particular issue.

The scientific evidence also shows that there is no satisfactory way of eliminating the risks of second-hand smoke in enclosed public places short of ending smoking. The lobby saying that it is possible to use ventilation to get rid of the smoke is completely mistaken. Despite the best endeavours of the tobacco industry to promote ventilation as a solution to the problem, no ventilation system will be fully effective. Smoke spreads, and it is not possible to prevent people who are in the same room with someone who is smoking from being affected by that smoke. The atmospheric physicist James Repace has stated that such a system would require air cycling rates of "tornado-like" force. It might almost be worth the absurd expense of installing such a system to watch some of the opponents of action on second-hand smoke trying to light a cigarette when it was in operation. It is now generally accepted that we cannot get rid of tobacco smoke.

Of course, under the Bill, it would be for the National Assembly for Wales to decide what restrictions on smoking it introduced. Good employers in the pub and restaurant trade are already heading in the right direction. The pub chain Wetherspoon, for example, has announced that its 650 pubs will be smoke free by the end of 2006, which is two years earlier than the Government proposes in the White Paper. I believe that that is a commercial decision, as I think that many more people will go to pubs and restaurants if they know that there will be no smoke there.

In south Wales, Brains has announced the launch of smoke-free pubs in the Cardiff area. The Aubrey Arms in the Vale of Glamorgan is already smoke free, and the Cottage pub in the centre of Cardiff has recently become so. I welcome such moves. The move towards recognising the danger of tobacco smoke, including through passive smoking, has been very swift. If we had had this debate two years ago, there would have been much more opposition. There has been a huge change in the views of the public, and voluntary steps, such as those that I have mentioned, have been taken.

Overall, however, progress has been slow. Using data from the Government's labour force survey and the Office for National Statistics survey "Smoking-related behaviours and attitudes", Action on Smoking and Health, or ASH, has calculated that more than 130,000 employees in Wales are still routinely exposed to other people's smoke throughout their place of work—one in 10 of the work force. More than 500,000 people—four in 10 of the total work force—work in places where smoking is permitted somewhere
18 Mar 2005 : Column 508
on the premises. The case for a new law is that it will bring the worst up to the standard of the best, because good things are already happening.

When the National Assembly for Wales made a decision about this matter, it would also need to make a judgment on what impact restrictions on smoking in workplaces and public places might have on trade and jobs. I know that it is considering that issue, and that evidence has been given to the Assembly Committee that is currently engaged in consultation. I would argue that we already know more than enough to dismiss the wild assertions of the tobacco trade and some of the more unreconstructed elements of the hospitality industry.

Hon. Members will probably remember the braying and bleating from tobacco interests and the bar trade in New York when that city wisely acted to end smoking in all workplaces and public places. We were told that trade would slump dramatically; a 30 per cent. decrease was the usual forecast, but I do not know what it was based on. As always, it has taken about a year to get a real idea of the effect and for objective evidence to be collected.

In March 2004, the city's finance, health, small business and economic development departments got together to look at the facts, and here they are: business tax receipts in restaurants and bars are up by 8.7 per cent.; employment in restaurants and bars has increased by 10,600 jobs since the enactment of that law; 97 per cent. of restaurants and bars are smoke free; and New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the law. Air quality in bars and restaurants has improved dramatically: levels of cotinine, a by-product of tobacco, decreased by 85 per cent. in non-smoking workers in bars and restaurants, and 150,000 fewer New Yorkers are exposed to second-hand smoke on the job. What a success. Taking a bold initiative, and leading as politicians should lead, can achieve success in the way that I have described. If the National Assembly for Wales wants the same benefit for the people of Wales, I believe that we should give it the power to achieve that.

I also visited Ireland with the all-party group on smoking and health. In May last year, no-smoking legislation was introduced in Ireland, and it will be interesting to see an evaluation of what has happened after a year. What we saw in Ireland was very impressive, and I was most impressed that everybody whom we met totally accepts the law. In Dublin we visited some bars and restaurants where the smokers, who were not complaining, were outside. A lot of smokers support this Bill, because most smokers want to give up, and feel that the fewer opportunities they have to smoke, the better it is for them. The all-party group was very positive about the move in Ireland.

The people of Wales and the Assembly should be concerned about smoking in workplaces and public places. The Assembly has responsibility for matters relating to health, but to improve the health of the people in Wales, it must be able to tackle the problems caused by the consumption of tobacco. If it is not allowed to tackle the extensive problems caused by second-hand smoke, it is being asked to provide health care without the powers it needs to be fully effective.

The Assembly has sought such powers. On 22 January 2003, Alun Pugh AM moved a motion recommending to Parliament the enactment of
18 Mar 2005 : Column 509
legislation prohibiting smoking in public places in Wales. Assembly Members were given a free vote, and they approved the resolution by 39 votes to 10, with majorities in all four parties in favour. Indeed, all four party leaders and all four party health spokespeople voted for the resolution. A cross-party Assembly Committee is currently considering the issue. It is travelling around Wales and taking evidence from businesses, health groups and the public, and it will report back in May. I am confident that it will repeat the call for the Assembly to get the powers that it needs to act.

The Assembly's view is clearly in line with the majority of Welsh people. In a MORI survey in May 2004, 54 per cent. of respondents in Wales strongly supported a law to ensure that all enclosed workplaces are smoke free, and a further 24 per cent. tended to support the proposals. The majority among the public is clear.

Next Section IndexHome Page