In 2007, MPs in the UK voted by a huge margin to ban smoking from all public places including pubs and private members’ clubs in England. The Commons decided by a margin of 200 to impose a ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces. This law took effect on 1 July 2007.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the change would “save thousands of people’s lives. I’m absolutely delighted. This is really a historic day for public health.” Ministers gave a free vote amid fears Labour MPs could rebel against plans to exempt clubs and pubs not serving food.
The Cabinet was split on how far restrictions – set out in the Health Bill – should go, with Conservatives calling government policy a ‘shambles’. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Charles Clarke all voted for a blanket ban. But Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, Defence Secretary John Reid and Education Secretary Ruth Kelly opposed it.
Elspeth Lee, of Cancer Research UK , said: “This is really going to affect generations to come and make the nation a lot healthier.” However, Simon Clark, director of smoking support group Forest , said: “This is a double whammy and an unnecessary and illiberal piece of legislation that denies freedom of choice to millions of people. The Government should educate people about the health risks of smoking but politicians have no right to force people to quit by making it more difficult for people to consume a legal product.
The Cabinet originally proposed prohibiting smoking only in pubs serving food, in line with Labour’s election manifesto. A free vote was offered after many Labour MPs, fearing a partial ban could increase health inequalities among customers and staff, threatened to rebel. Ministers came up with three choices: a total ban; exempting private clubs; or exempting clubs and pubs not serving food. Many MPs opposed a smoking ban on civil liberties grounds.
The government predicts an estimated 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of the law change. Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said ministers had “put forward proposals which their own backbenchers thought were completely unworkable”. But it was “a very important step”; he added there “had to be a culture that encourages better health”. Conservative MPs were offered a free vote on the issue.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said: “This legislation is good news for tens of thousands of bar staff up and down the country. The key issue has always been the health and safety of people who work in public places.” In a recent report, the Commons health select committee said a total ban was the “only effective means” of protecting public health.
Employment law consultancy Peninsula found that 91 per cent of workers are in favour of the legislation. A survey conducted by the British Thoracic Society concluded that far from having a negative impact the smoking ban has provided a welcome boost for business.
Similar smoking bans have been introduced in more than a dozen U.S. states, including California and New York, as well as in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, but the U.K. is the largest country thus far to adopt a national ban.
To explain the changes, the government paid for TV advertisements, national newspaper ads, and billboards and signs on trains and buses. One showed a man walking through different locations — a cafe, a pub, a garage and an office — explaining that smoking would be banned from all enclosed public places from July 1. A second advert showed the same man walking through a pub, a garage and a restaurant, warning people they could be fined for breaking the ban.
It is a company’s responsibility to enforce the ban. A person who smokes in a bar could be fined £30 (US$60), but the bar’s owner could face a fine of as much as £2,500 (US$5,000). Companies must put up no-smoking signs, minimum of about 3 inches (75mm) wide, including in all their vehicles.
(Modified article from BBC website.)
Activity 1 – Use these words to complete the sentences below.
civil liberties, illiberal, split, double whammy, shambles
historic, backbenchers, partial ban, exempt, margin, predict
- There is a healthy ….. in favour of the change in the rules.
- The day that the phone call was made across the Atlantic was a ….. occasion.
- Students are ….. from some of the taxes that they will have to pay once they graduate.
- The student leaders were ….. over what to do about the rise in student fees. Some wanted to demonstrate while others wanted to refuse to attend classes.
- Some people have said that the first few weeks after the invasion of Iraq were a ….. and this was one of the main causes of the problems that followed.
- The collapse of his business and the departure of his girl friend was a ….. that he found difficult to recover from.
- Governments that are regarded as very ….. will find it very difficult to obtain loans and grants from international institutions.
- There has been a ….. on hunting whales from some years because some species are still hunted by Norway, Japan and Russia.
- Tony Blair was accused of undermining some ….. when he was Prime Minister by, for example, lengthening the time that suspects could be held in jail.
- It’s difficult to ….. what will happen in the future but most people believe that life will change significantly as a result of global warming.
- ….. are often believed to be little more than lobby fodder and to have very little power or influence.
Activity 2 – Scan the text and find the significance of these words and expressions in the text.
1 July 2007
Home Secretary Charles Clarke
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly
91 per cent
Activity 3 – Read the passage carefully and answer these questions:
- Is there evidence to suggest that businesses will suffer from the smoking ban?
- Give examples of enclose public spaces this will affect.
- Why did ministers give MPs a free vote?
- What’s a blanket ban?
- Simon Clark puts forward 6 arguments against the ban. What are they?
- How did the new law differ from the government’s original plans?
- Why did they change their view?
- What choices were the MPs given?
- Why did the Liberal Democrats support the new law?
Activity 4 – What do you think
- Where might you be surprised to find no smoking signs nowadays?
- Do you think other countries will follow the same policy?
- In which countries are smoking rates either very high or actually rising?
- How much does an average packet of 20 cost in the UK ? How much of that is tax?
- If cigarettes are so bad for people (a) what did cigarette producers say in the past and (b) what do they say today?
Activity 5 – Advertising
What methods have cigarette manufacturers used to sell cigarettes in the past?
What methods do they use today?
Activity 6 – Verbs
Underline all examples of passive verbs.
Underline all examples of the Present Perfect; explain why this tense has been used.
Activity 7 – Adjectives
The writer uses various adjectives to paint a picture or to make meaning more specific. What adjectives can you find in paragraphs 1-5 in the passage? Underline them.
Now try to replace as many of those adjectives as you can with other adjectives that are least similar in meaning.
Activity 8 – Homework
Write an interview between a journalist and a) a representative of a cigarette manufacturer and b) someone in favour on banning smoking.