The Health Bill as published proposes that smoking be outlawed in most public places, including offices, restaurants, cafés and pubs that serve food. However, pubs and bars not serving meals would be able to choose whether to allow smoking or be smoke-free but smoking in the bar area would be prohibited everywhere.
The Trades Union Congress has opposed the proposals and called instead for a total ban, citing material published by the World Health Organisation which shows that ventilation removes the smell of tobacco smoke but leaves many of the carcinogens present, giving the illusion of clean air but leaving people exposed to high levels of dangerous substances.
The Bill was challenged by a joint committee of MPs and Peers, who questioned whether the proposals were consistent with human rights laws, and following further pressure from Labour back benchers an amendment was tabled calling for a total smoking ban in public places.
The Government has now decided to allow a free vote on the issue. MPs will be able to vote for one of three options regarding a ban in England and Wales. These are:
- a total ban on smoking in pubs and clubs;
- a ban on smoking in pubs but not in private clubs; or
- a ban on smoking only in pubs serving food.
To date, although a number of employees have made claims against their employers that they have been made ill as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke, cases on passive smoking have been settled out of court, with no one case setting a precedent in law.