Reid's smoking ban attacked by both sides

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The Health Secretary, John Reid yesterday surprised medical organisations and the public by announcing a complete ban on smoking in almost all enclosed public places.

The Health Secretary, John Reid yesterday surprised medical organisations and the public by announcing a complete ban on smoking in almost all enclosed public places.

The move is one of the most dramatic health interventions in recent years, but immediately drew criticism from both sides of the debate.

Almost 12 million people smoke, and Mr Reid pledged to reduce the total by two million in five years. But some medical organisations argued the pace was too slow and the measures did not go far enough, while the pub trade hinted that publicans would sidestep the ban.

It will be implemented in stages, applying to government offices and the NHS by 2006, in all workplaces (eliminating office smoking rooms) by 2007 and in pubs and restaurants serving food - 80-90 per cent of the total - by the end of 2008.

The only public places where it will be legal after that will be pubs that do not serve food and private clubs where the members agree to it. Smoking may also be permitted in hospices, prisons and residential homes.

A legal ban was not expected from the Health Secretary who had declared he was opposed to "nannying". But protecting other people from the damage caused by cigarette smoke justified this exception, he told the Commons yesterday.

The decision to exempt pubs that do not serve food and private clubs from the ban provoked charges of a "bodge" and "missed opportunity". Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said it was bizarre to accept the wisdom of a ban but then deny its benefits to people who worked in licensed premises where food was not served. He said: "The Government has failed in its fundamental duty to protect our citizens' health and safety by opting out of a total ban. It's like having the legislation to fit all cars with seatbelts because we know seatbelts save lives and then stopping some passengers from wearing them."

But the Tories accused Mr Reid of adopting Old Labour interventionism. Andrew Lansley, shadow Health Secretary, said: "Five years ago the Government said they did not believe in the old nanny state approach. So now they believe in the new nanny state approach."

The Liberal Democrats' spokesman, Paul Burstow, said: "This White Paper demonstrates that this Government, far from having courage, lacks the courage to take the necessary action to deal with the wide range of public health threats posed in this country."

Four years was too slow an implementation for the British Medical Association. "When lives need saving, doctors act immediately. The Queen's Speech is next week and these proposals should be in it," said James Johnson, BMA chairman.

THE MAIN POINTS

* From 2006 smoking banned in restaurants and pubs serving food, enclosed public places and workplaces

* Limits on amount of TV advertising of unhealthy foods to children

* National campaign on risk of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies; chlamydia screening programme to cover all England by 2007

* NHS lifestyle trainers to work in disadvantaged areas

* New Health Direct service available on telephone, online, and digital TV

* Clearer food labelling with simple code on fat, sugar, and salt content

* Stark picture warnings on cigarette packets and further curbs on tobacco advertising

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