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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I very much welcome the initiative of my noble friend Lord Janner in allowing us to debate this extremely interesting Question this evening. First, I add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, on his very clear and effective maiden speech.
My noble friend Lord Janner, while recognising the Government's action in this area, urges us to go further. I wish to assure my noble friend that the Government are considering carefully their approach to the problem of smoking in public places.
Smoking results in about 120,000 deaths a year in the UK. It is the largest cause of preventable disease and premature death and adds considerably to the costs of the NHS, as illustrated by the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle. The Government were elected with a clear manifesto commitment to phase out tobacco advertising. On 22nd June, the European Union Council of Ministers formally adopted the directive to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship which was voted through the Parliament of the European Union on 13th May.
It is, however, clear that the harmful effects of smoking are not confined to the smoker. This issue has become more prominent as the size of the non-cigarette-smoking majority in the population has increased and as other sources of environmental contamination have diminished.
The fact is that the effects of passive smoking have been reviewed by numerous scientific and medical committees worldwide. All conclude that passive smoking is harmful to the health of non-smokers. In Britain, the Fourth Report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health was published in 1988 and sought to quantify the dangers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has declared environmental tobacco smoke a Class A carcinogen (capable of causing cancer in humans). The findings of those authorities were broadly confirmed in the report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health earlier this year. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that our statisticians confirm that a full reading of the WHO report confirms the findings of several hundred lung cancer deaths every year.
The Government are fully committed to phasing out tobacco advertising as an essential step in building an effective strategy to deal with smoking and also share the view the people are entitled to breathe air unpolluted by environmental tobacco smoke. We are committed to the creation of a non-smoking environment, with facilities where appropriate for those who wish to smoke, by encouraging suitable voluntary policies on smoking in all enclosed public places.
In December 1991 the previous government published a code of practice on smoking in public places which provides practical guidance to owners and managers on implementing suitable smoking policies. That code advises that the policy to be adopted should depend in part on the reason the public are visiting the building; that is, whether members of the public are attending out of necessity (or to receive a service) or whether they are attending out of choice. The implementation of a smoking policy is at the discretion of the manager of the facilities and/or provider of services, but in all cases the Government expect efforts to be made to cater for the interests of the non-smoker.
I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, that the majority of people are in favour of some form of smoking control. Smoking restrictions in restaurants have the support of 92 per cent. of non-smokers, 88 per cent. of ex-smokers and 70 per cent. of smokers. There is less support for smoking restrictions in pubs, although 60 per cent. of non-smokers and 52 per cent. of ex-smokers are in favour and even 25 per cent. of smokers would support some kind of restriction.
Policy on smoking in public places was based on the 1988 advice of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health and set out that non-smoking should be regarded as the norm in enclosed areas frequented by the public or employees, with special provision being made for smokers rather than vice versa. Up to now, government action has been based on a voluntary approach both because it has been considered
In its report published on 11th March, the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health recommended that smoking in public places should be restricted on the grounds of public health. The committee suggested that the level of restriction should vary according to the different categories of public place but that smoking should not be allowed in public service buildings or on public transport, other than in designated and isolated areas. It also recommended that, wherever possible, smoking should not be permitted in the workplace. The conclusions and recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health are being taken into account in the development of the forthcoming White Paper on tobacco control.
The Government are fully aware of the health effects of smoking and passive smoking and of the particular difficulties posed by public places. Restrictions are very difficult to enforce without solid public support. As the public and employers become increasingly aware of the scientific evidence of the risks of passive smoking, they contribute to the positive impetus needed to continue to make good progress.
Virtually all public places are workplaces and the legal duties of employers to protect the health and welfare of non-smoking staff working in places such as pubs and restaurants will be an important factor. What matters is that the manager and/or provider of services or facilities sees the need to take account of the majority who do not smoke and in general do not like having their outing for a meal or a drink in a restaurant or licensed premises being spoilt by inhaling other people's smoke, a point well put by my noble friend Lord Janner and the noble Earl, Lord Bradford.
We urge landlords and restaurateurs to bring their own voluntary codes to set aside smoke-free zones and also to do all they reasonably can to provide a safe and comfortable place of work for their staff. I thought the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, made some very good points on that.
The Health and Safety Executive's guidance on passive smoking at work recommends that all employers should have a specific policy on smoking in the workplace. The policy should give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke.
Employers also have legal duties under health and safety law and the guidance explains the implications of that. If a risk to health can be demonstrated--for example, if a worker with a respiratory condition is forced to work in a smoky atmosphere which could make his condition worse--the employer should take action to deal with the risk. Again, the noble Lord, Lord McColl, had some important points to make on that.
The full details of our policy on smoking in public places, together with the timescale for implementation of the tobacco advertising directive in UK law, will be presented as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy in a White Paper at the end of this year. My noble friend Lord Haskel and the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, will have to be a little more patient on that.
The noble Earl, Lord Bradford, spoke about ventilation in restaurants and the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, referred to the costs to business. It is appreciated that to provide a fully smoke-free environment would for some premises involve a considerable amount of expenditure. For that reason, government officials have been, and will continue to be, involved in detailed discussions with representatives of the licensed trade and restaurant industries.
There are, however, positive aspects. Besides improved staff health and lower cleaning costs, more pleasant surroundings are likely to attract more customers who are likely to stay longer. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, had much to say of interest about the response of business to that.
I have noted the comments of noble Lords concerning smoking, in particular, my noble friend Lord Haskel, in the vicinity of your Lordships' House. Smoking is ultimately for the House. I suggest that noble Lords should communicate their views to the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Offices Committee.
We have heard about the issue of freedom for smokers. My noble friend Lord Stoddart had much to say on that, as did the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton. I am no health fascist. Like the noble Lord, Lord Janner, it took me years, and many attempts, to give up smoking. The Government do not seek to ban smoking, but they have a duty to ensure that all smokers are fully aware of the dangers associated with their habit. We recognise, however, that those who do not smoke--almost three-quarters of the population--have the right to breathe air unpolluted by tobacco smoke. We will therefore continue to work towards a situation where non-smoking is the norm, but with provision for smokers where appropriate.
In conclusion, in the case of public places there is clearly scope to build on the progress made by means of voluntary measures over recent years. The experience in countries which have tried to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants suggests that it is difficult to enforce and may not help in changing public attitudes; but public attitudes have moved an enormously long way in the last 20 or 30 years, and smoke-free public and workplaces are on the increase. Our aim is to go with the grain of public opinion, but building on what has already been achieved. I am convinced that that is the right way to proceed and the most effective way to proceed.
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