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Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) on her position in the ballot. She beat me by one place, and consequently I may or may not have my own Second Reading on 8 Aprilwe shall have to wait and see whether events take over. I congratulate her even more on selecting the subject of the effect of second-hand smoke on the public's health.
I do not have a great deal of contact with the Principality of Wales, although I have a village in my constituency called Wales, which boasts Wales high school, one of the best high schools in England in terms of academic attainment. Under an earlier Administration in the 1980s, I once wrote to the Education Department about the problems in Wales high school and the letter was promptly sent off to the Welsh Office. I was a bit worried that people thought that there was only one secondary school in the Principality of Wales, but I eventually got the problem sorted out.
"The evidence of risk to health from exposure to second-hand smoke points towards an excess number of deaths, although the debate on the precise scale of the impact continues. The consultation demonstrated clear concern about both the health impact and discomfort felt by many in smoke-filled environments, with particular concerns about locations such as work places, where people may not have been able to choose to be in a smoke-free environment."
Of course, that debate has continued for many years. The tobacco industry will not accept the clear medical evidence and has for decades used spurious means of trying to talk down the health issues around secondary smoking and to claim that they are not clearly seen.
That is absolutely wrong. The evidence of risks to health and of a significant number of deaths is clear and overwhelming, and it was well summarised by the Government's Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health last November when it published its executive summary alongside the White Paper. Let me remind the House what the Government's own committee, which advises them on matters relating to health and smoking, said:
Children are at particular risk from secondhand smoke'the evidence strongly links secondhand smoke with an increased risk of pneumonia and bronchitis, asthma attacks, middle ear disease, decreased lung function and sudden infant death syndrome. It has also been shown that babies born to mothers who come into contact with second-hand smoke have lower birth weights.'"
Nowhere in the White Paper is there an estimate of the number of employees who are exposed to second-hand smoke at work. It may be my right to go into a smoky atmosphere for a drink or a meal, but what about those who work in such places? What right do the people who work in the Strangers Bar haveuntil after Easternot to work in a smoke-filled atmosphere?
It is relatively easy to estimate how many people suffer second-hand smoke at work. Some of the essential statistics are given in paragraph 8 of the regulatory impact assessment with support from the Office for National Statistics and using data from the Government's labour force survey for 2003 and the national statistics ombudsman's survey. Action on Smoking and Health, of which I am a long-standing member and supporter, calculated that some 2.1 million people in the UK work in places with no restriction on smoking, which is 8 per cent. of those who work. Some 10.3 million people work in places where smoking takes place in designated areas, which is 38 per cent. of those who work. There is little or no protection in reality for many of those people.
I have evidence from the British Medical Association. Some people may argue that is anecdotal, but it relates to what doctors say about smoking. Doctors do not just see patients; they are citizens of this country and, like us, go to restaurants, pubs and so on. Dr. Peter Maguire, who practises in Northern Ireland, said:
"I recently visited the now smoke free bars and restaurants of New York and they are great, just like in Ireland. I visited a close family friend who is a bar owner and is now dying from sinus and throat cancer. He has never smoked but until recently, worked in smoky bars. The smoke free legislation in New York has come too late to save him. When I left New York I knew I would never see him alive again. He is one of many people who have been harmed by smoky environments. The New York law is working well and is accepted as it has been in Ireland."
My wife and I spent the new year before last in New York and it was a pleasure to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants where there was no smoking. There were butt tubs outside so that people can extinguish their cigarettes before going into the premises. That was in stark contrast to my many previous visits when the atmosphere in bars was very smoky.
"The most serious effects are on the smallest children. Young babies are admitted to our paediatric ward with wheezing which improves away from cigarette smoke and worsens again as soon as they go home. Older children are affected too. A teenager of my acquaintance, who has asthma, finds that her nights out are ruined by having to retreat to her car to take her inhalers because the smoke in her favourite night club makes her chest so tight she cannot dance."
People may argue that that is anecdotal, but it is clear evidence from health professionals who work with patients almost every day of their lives about the effects of secondary smoking. The Government should not ignore that.
Other issues arise in smoke-free areas. New York city was challenged several times in the courts when its ban was introduced and its law department issued a press release about a decision that was made on Wednesday 7 April. It stated:
"The plaintiff alleged that the Smoke-Free Air Act violated smokers' rights to freedom of association, assembly, speech and travel, and unlawfully discriminated against smokers. The Court rejected all of the plaintiff's arguments. The Court noted that 'smokers remain free to associate and assemble as they please, to smoke or not, whether it be in a bar, a restaurant, a city street or any other place where it is otherwise permissible to do so.' As to the plaintiff's free speech claim, the Court stated that is 'is not persuaded by the general proposition that a smoker's prevailing motivation for smoking a cigarette, whether it is done in a bar, restaurant or on a city street, is to convey a message with some profound expressive content to those around him."
The press release quoted the testimony of several people and it was clear that the challenge failed because of the consequences of environmental tobacco smoke on public health and people who use such areas.
On Thursday 11 November Action on Smoking and Health issued a news release headed "Smoke and Mirrors: How Philip Morris concealed the truth about secondhand smoke". It goes into detail about how Philip Morris, a large international tobacco company, had set up a laboratory in Germany many years ago to carry out tests on the effects of second-hand smoke and direct smoke on people, but then suppressed the evidence. We all know that for many years the tobacco industry has suppressed evidence about the effect of smoking on health in this country and many others, but evidence exists.
Licensed premises will be treated as follows: all restaurants will be smoke-free; all pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free; other pubs and bars will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free; in membership clubs the members will be free to choose whether to allow smoking or to be smoke-free; smoking in the bar area will be prohibited everywhere."
I appreciate that that is not yet drafted in a Bill to be presented to the House, but I believe that the White Paper is poorly expressed, confused, probably unworkable and certainly undesirable for public health.
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leave open the possibility of a return to the failed voluntary approach to public health and tobacco. I shall not go into the debates that we held many years ago on tobacco advertising and the weak voluntary approach that Governments accepted for many years. That did not stop our young children being exposed to tobacco companies' advertising; indeed, it was probably impossible to do that.
A voluntary approach will simply encourage the most backward elements in the pub trade to try to push the Government from the White Paper proposals to something closer to the failed public places charter, which was introduced the last time a Labour Government backed away from effective action on the issue. It was before my time in the House, but I have read about it often.
The proposals are confused because there is no useful link between pubs that prepare and serve food, those that do not and smoking. I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales will not reply to the debate in detail, but consider giving powers to the Welsh Assembly. However, I emphasise that trying to draw such a link sends the most negative signals to the general public about smoking and their health. Smoking and people's health have nothing to do with whether people are eating, but with whether one is in a confined space, and the amount of second-hand smoke that goes into one's body and causes harm. It is about time that the Government decided to move positively if we are to meet their smoking cessation targets, which I support.
The Government have done wonderfully well by putting money into public health and smoking cessation clinics, but all the professionals say that we will undershoot the targets in 2010. We will continually undershoot them if we keep sending out mixed messages about what secondary smoking does to us.
I want to consider businesses. It is well documented that, in New York, Dublin and doubtless many other smoke-free places, the ban on smoking has had a positive effect on business. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North mentioned the national pub chain, J. D. Wetherspoon. For many years, it has been trying to create smoke-free and ventilated areas in its pubs. I have visited them and seen what the chain is trying to do but it knows that ventilation in public houses and restaurants is not the answer. The solution is to introduce a ban. It has decided to move far quicker than the Government, not because the White Paper is perceived to be a threat to its business but because it understands that its premises will probably be the pubs of choice for people who can go to them and be in a smoke-free atmosphere.
The Forum of Private Business conducts the referendums that are regularly sent to us. I have the latest referendum result from 21 February 2005. The first question was about a ban on smoking in public places, and 71.5 per cent. of those in the Forum of Private Business voted for a ban. I hope that it seems a sensible and practical measure to most hon. Members. We are making the national health service smoke free and it is therefore ridiculous to do that while allowing some smoking in public places, which could easily be stopped by proper legislation.
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I hope that the Bill, which gives the National Assembly for Wales the power to ban smoking in public places in Wales, will be supported. I also hope that people in England will have the opportunity to make the same decisions to protect the health of the nation by protecting us from second-hand smoke and the effects of smoking.
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