UK Smoking Ban
A smoking ban in England, making it illegal to smoke in all enclosed work places in England, came into force on 1 July 2007 as a consequence of the Health Act 2006. Similar bans had already been introduced by the rest of the United Kingdom before this - Scotland on 26 March 2006, Wales on 2 April 2007 and Northern Ireland on 30 April 2007.
On 16 November 2004 a Public Health white paper proposed a smoking ban in almost all public places in England and Wales. Smoking restrictions would be phased in, with a ban on smoking in NHS and government buildings by 2006, in enclosed public places by 2007, and pubs, bars and restaurants (except pubs not serving food) by the end of 2008.
On 26 October 2005, after external challenge and debates within the Cabinet, the government announced that it would continue with its plans. All workplaces, including restaurants and pubs selling food, would have to have a ban in place by summer 2007 However, there was widespread criticism from all sides of the argument on this, with a number of MPs threatening to try to overturn the bill. Many representatives of the licensed trade told the Government that only a total ban would work, and over 90 MPs signed a motion demanding this, with over 100 signing a petition for a free vote on the issue. It was reported on 24 November that Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson nearly quit over the partial ban, but decided to stay to champion a total ban. On the same day, the government released the results of the public consultation, after Cancer Research UK demanded them under the Freedom of Information Act, which revealed that nearly 9 out of 10 respondents wanted a total ban.
On 11 January 2006, the government further announced that it would give MPs a free vote on an amendment to the Health Bill, submitted by the Health select committee, to instigate a comprehensive smoke-free workplace regulations. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt voted in favour of the amendment and, in so doing, voted against her own Department's then publicly-stated policy (i.e. the proposed partial regulations). All other parties had offered free votes on the issue which was debated on 14 February, with three options: the present compromise, a total ban, or an exemption for member's clubs only.
On 14 February 2006, the House of Commons first voted on the amendment to the original compromise plan, to extend the ban to all enclosed public places except private members' clubs. The amendment was carried with a large majority. MPs then voted on a further amendment to ban smoking in all enclosed public places including private member's clubs. Again this amendment gained significant support and was carried with a large majority. This therefore replaced the earlier successful amendment which would have allowed smoking only in private member's clubs. The legislation was passed by the House of Lords, allowing a total smoking ban in enclosed public places to come into force in England.
Political opposition did not entirely disappear at this point, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee accused the Government of over reacting to the threat posed by passive smoking and said that the smoking ban was symptomatic of MPs' failure to understand risk on 7 June 2006.
The ban came into force on 1 July 2007, as announced on the 30 November 2006 by former Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt, who called it "a huge step forward for public health".
Following the passing of the law
After the 2010 General Election in the UK, the Coalition Government announced that it would not be reviewing the ban on 30 June 2010. An attempt in October 2010 by Conservative MP David Nuttall to amend the law to exempt private member's clubs and pubs from the smoking ban was defeated in the House of Commons on its first reading.
Exemptions from the law
While the ban affects almost all indoor workplaces, some exemptions were provided:
bus shelters (provided they are less than 50% covered, some councils however assume no exemptions apply),
phone boxes (but box types K2 to K8 are included, because they are completely sealed)
hotel rooms (if they are designated as smoking rooms)
offshore oil rigs (only in designated rooms)
psychiatric wards (until 1 July 2008)
stages/television sets (if needed for the performance, except in rehearsals)
specialist tobacconists in relation to sampling cigars and/or pipe tobacco.
An exemption was also theoretically possible within the Palace of Westminster, as for other Royal Palaces, although members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords agreed to observe the spirit of the ban and restrict any smoking within the grounds of Parliament to four designated outside areas.
Smoking is permitted in a private residence, although not in areas used as a shared work-space. In flats with communal entrances or shared corridors, these must be smoke-free.
Although prisons and hotel rooms are provisionally exempt, university halls of residence presented some dilemmas in practice as regards defining what is public and private. Several universities have imposed a blanket ban on smoking including halls of residence.
Policing of the ban
The ban is enforced by Environmental Health Officers in England, who issue warnings and offer advice before taking resorting to punitive measures and have had to issue a low frequency of fines since the law came into force. However, there were some objectors who generated higher-profile legal cases, for instance Hugh Howitt, also known as Hamish Howitt, the landlord of the Happy Scots Bar in Blackpool who was the first landlord to be prosecuted for permitting smoking in a smoke-free place under his control. On 2 August 2007, Howitt appeared before Blackpool Magistrate's Court and pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of failing to stop people smoking in his pub. On 2 December 2008, Howitt effectively had his premises licence revoked, after an appeal by Blackpool Council was upheld; he will was not allowed to appeal, and Howitt had to close the Delboys Bar following the decision.
There have been some incidents of violence perpetrated by people refusing to obey the ban, in one of which a former heavyweight boxer, James Oyebola, was shot in the head after he asked a customer at a nightclub to stop smoking and later died of his injuries.. However, the view of enforcement authorities is that the smoke-free workplace regulations are simple to understand, popular, and as a result largely 'self-policing'.
Opposition to the ban
A group calling themselves "Freedom To Choose", launched a campaign for a judicial review of the smoke-free workplace regulations claiming a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998, as it does not respect the right to privacy of people who wish to smoke in public. Supporters of the regulations put forward counter-arguments positing that the rights of smokers to indulge in their habit cease as soon as it negatively affects other people in the vicinity. In 2010 pub landlord Nick Hogan was jailed for an offence related to the smoking ban.
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