Response to Smoking consultation 2005


This response is presented on behalf of the Socialist Health Association. The Association was formed in 1930 in order to campaign for the establishment of a National Health Service. We are still campaigning for a reduction in health inequalities and we consider that a substantial reduction in smoking can contribute much to the reduction of health inequalities.

In response to the specific questions posed:

1. We would like to see a wide definition of smoke. We do not want to see enforcement difficulties caused by smokers who claim their smoke does not qualify. There seems a reasonable likelihood that the inhalation of any sort of smoke or particles is harmful and we think that imposing smoke of any kind on other people without their consent should be an offence.

2 & 3. We suggest that the approach taken to the issue of enclosed space should be similar. A space should be regarded as enclosed if its construction or use is such that smoke is confined and other people present have to inhale it without consent. The fact that there may not be a roof or walls is irrelevant. The focus should be on the harm done to people who do not want to inhale other people’s smoke. There should be specific provision to protect children by banning smoking from children’s playgrounds and any other facilities used by children, regardless of whether they are at all enclosed.

5. Public houses are a key area. Many people only smoke when they go to the pub. If the intention is to encourage people to give up smoking then it is important that smoking is not allowed in any licensed premises. The proposed exception for premises which do not serve food seems likely to increase health inequalities, because the premises which will be exempt are those patronised by less affluent people. In terms of ease of enforcement a ban without exemptions is much simpler.

6. Residential premises: The principle which should guide these situations is that no-one should be made to inhale smoke without their consent, so communal areas in residential premises should not be exempt unless all residents agree that they should be. Hotels should not be treated as residential accommodation except in respect of premises which are genuinely the homes of their residents. The state owes a particular duty of care to those who are incarcerated or whose judgements is impaired. These people in particular should not be exposed to smoke without thier consent.

7. It may be acceptable for the members of a club to agree that they are prepared to inhale other people’s smoke, but there should be provision to protect the rights of any minority who does not so consent. In any case the rights of the staff not to inhale smoke as a condition of their employment should be preserved.

10. The penalties prescribed are quite modest, and might not deter the owners of large premises if they saw commercial advantage in defying the law. We suggest that there should be provision for increased penalties for subsequent offences.

13. We do not consider that any employees should be forced to inhale smoke as a condition of their employment.

14. We consider that the timetable is excessively prolonged, and that if there are no exceptions to provide for it could be truncated.

15. Abandoning the exemption will avoid any impact on binge drinking.