They have done it in Ireland, Scotland is planning it – now England and Wales could also ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including pubs and restaurants. It is all part of a new government drive to make the nation fitter. Health minister John Reid told parliament: “Thirty years ago almost half the adult population of this country smoked, 46 per cent. Today it is 26 per cent. We will take another two million people off that figure over the next five years.” An estimated 58 per cent of the population is said to support a smoking ban.
But the proposals are being criticised as too vague, because they do not cover all work places. Anna Coote from the King’s Fund for better health commented: “I think it is a missed opportunity because if you see what happened in Ireland which is a really extraordinary example, no one imagined that a smoking ban would work in Ireland or be popular but indeed it has worked and it is popular and I think one of the critical things there was that it was definite, everybody knew where they stood from day one.”
In Ireland it is simple – no smoking in any enclosed public places. In England and Wales, smoking would still be allowed in pubs not serving food, a subtlety that some call a loophole.
And the opposition Conservatives say the problem is just driven elsewhere. Shadow health minister Andrew Lansley told reporters: “I think the structures of the ban the government are proposing could lead to smokers taking drink home and smoking at home, the result would be more exposure to second-hand smokers, family and children.”
The ban still has to be voted by parliament and is not expected to come into force until about 2008.