§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ban or restrict smoking in restaurants, other eating places and other public places.
§ The noble Lord said: In begging leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I inquire what steps the Government propose to take to deal with smoking in restaurants and other public places, especially those where people are entitled to enjoy their food and drink without the nuisance of other people's smoke.
It is not a new problem. James I of England in 1604 gave the classic description:
A custom [smoking] loathsome to the eye, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless".
And in all these years the position has not changed. That fact is recognised not only by those who do not smoke but by vast numbers of those who smoke and who deeply regret their addiction.
§ From the start I declare my former interest as one of those persons. As a young soldier in the British Army of the Rhine, I shared a car with a soldier called Freddy Granville, a former SAS man. He induced me to start 1513 smoking. It took 10 years to become unhooked, and it was a difficult and miserable process. Ever since then I have represented not only myself but millions of other former addicts in my deep dislike of other people blowing their smoke wherever I happen to be. Untold millions more who have never smoked resent having the smoke of others inflicted on them.
§ I wish to refer in particular to places where we eat and drink—places where we are entitled to do so in decency and comfort, and without smoke if we wish it. I recognise that there are distinguished noble Lords present—I was about to say and ancient noble Lords—who have smoked for a long time and cherish their right so to do. They have that right. Any adult in this country, whether or not of sound mind, is fully entitled to destroy his or her health as and when he or she thinks fit, as long as he or she respects the equal right of other persons not to have their health destroyed.
Is it a matter of health? A man called Knebel said a few years ago:
It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics".
Some are accurate, and some are not. It is now again clear from the report of a recent government committee that passive smoking causes lung cancer and ischaemic heart disease. The report states:
Long exposure to environmental tobacco smoke increases the risk of dying from the disease by 20–30 per cent. in non-smokers, accounting for several hundred extra deaths from lung cancer in the United Kingdom every year. Passive smoking damages children's health and is an important cause of childhood respiratory infections and chronic lung disease".
§ Active smoking for adults is a matter for them. Passive smoking is not because it affects the health of others. But those who smoke—they are entitled to do so and I respect their right—should respect my right and that of others not to have the impact of their smoke blown into our lives. While they are fully entitled to smoke if they wish, and where they wish, they are not entitled to do so in a way that affects others who do not appreciate smoking. They are free to smoke. I am free to eat my meals without having the taste affected by other people's smoke. They are entitled to blow their smoke anywhere they like, provided that they do not blow it at me and others who object to it. It is a free world. They are free to smoke; but I must also be free not to be "smoked at".
§ That is the balance. Opponents of change say that it is a free country. It is indeed a free country in which we have free speech, but it is still a country where we restrict people's freedom of speech. One cannot defame, use racist attacks, or pornographic speech. There are restrictions on speech. It is a balance. People are free to drive their cars on the road but not to do so in a way that endangers other people's lives and health. That is restricted by law. People are free to smoke, but they should not do so, and should be restricted from doing so, in a way that affects other people's freedom not to have their comfort and health affected by smoking.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who will reply will no doubt decline to tell us anything that the Government have not published. However, as usual there are prior leaks, on this occasion in an article in the
Observer On Sunday which states that the Government are
on the brink of agreeing a new voluntary code of conduct which will be seized on eagerly by licencees and restaurateurs as their last chance of avoiding an outright ban".
I am not against voluntary agreements provided that they work. But I do not believe that this voluntary agreement will work. I am not against voluntary agreements if there is a good chance of their working. If this agreement is backed by the Government's clear statement—I venture to hope that my noble friend may yet produce it tonight—that if the agreement does not work they will take action, I should be happy to be patient.
§ But meanwhile what is to happen? In the Palace of Westminster I am told that there are 23 places where people can eat and drink. In many of them there is an attempt to separate smokers from non-smokers. It is not necessarily successful. There are many places where some of us will not go because we do not like the smoke blown around by others who are exercising their freedom to smoke as and when they will. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, is not present tonight. No doubt she would descend with great wrath upon my arguments and accuse me of many wicked offences. However, the noble Baroness told me that she has to be in Madrid. That is a great loss to the debate, this House and the cause of smokers. I should have liked to have heard the noble Baroness. In some ways the extent to which her passion for smoking overlaps into the realms of hyperbole helps my case. I sent her my best wishes.
§ For the remainder of us, the debate is an opportunity to express a point of view. It is a chance to say that we recognise that to smoke in a public place is not purely a matter of an individual right for the person smoking; it has effects on the comfort and health of others. It is our opportunity to salute those many businesses which no longer allow smoking in their buildings, and those countries which have already introduced legislation to deal with this issue, including many parts of the United States. American guests are amazed and appalled that people can still fill restaurants in this country with smoke when they are trying to eat without discomfort or interference of their right not to be disturbed by tobacco smoke.
§ I therefore ask the House to support my effort to encourage my Government—it is a Government I support willingly and wholeheartedly—to express a clear view today. If the Government cannot do so, I hope that my noble friend will do so in his personal capacity. One way or another we must make our restaurants, eating places and bars better, cleaner and more decent places for all by keeping smokers on one side of a room where they can smoke in their own way and in their own time while respecting the rights of others not to be disturbed by the smoke to which they are addicted.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord Daresbury
My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I rise to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for bringing such an important matter to the attention of the House. I am also pleased to have the 1515 opportunity to participate in a debate in which I have an interest and where I hope my own experience is of relevance.
My family's business, which has been in existence for more than 200 years, is that of operating places in which people gather to drink, eat and socialise. Today, as chief executive of that business, I am responsible for the operation of more than 2,000 licensed outlets which range from small public houses to five-star hotels. In all, we employ just over 25,000 people across the United Kingdom.
There is no doubt in my mind that smoking and the damage it causes is a serious public health issue. However, the subject of this debate is the control of public behaviour, which I regard as a different matter and one which should not be confused with health education. I do not believe that the restriction on smoking in licensed premises either can or should be brought about by legislation.
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, of which my company is a member, estimates from its recent research that 47 per cent. of pub customers are smokers. Interestingly, the BLRA also notes that 72 per cent. of those who frequent pubs socialise in groups containing both smokers and non-smokers. That tends to contradict the idea that the two parties are actively pursuing segregation.
Although the pub industry has moved a long way from the days of spit and sawdust, the fact is that smoking remains a part of the social experience of pub-going. Those who contemplate legislation are ignoring practical difficulties as well as matters of principle. For example, where ventilation is concerned many British pubs are historic buildings in which the installation of air extraction systems raises planning as well as cost concerns. Frankly, I cannot see how legislation in this regard could fail to harm smaller, older outlets, including those which are most cherished not only by the traditionalists but by tourists to this country from all over the world. By that, I do not mean that we should do nothing. I take the view that clean air is both generally desirable and good for business. But it is the business of pub operators to run pubs, not to engage in social engineering.
The operators of licensed premises should address themselves not to changing the behaviour of smokers, but to removing the smoke they produce, thereby both benefiting and retaining all their customers. I respectfully suggest to your Lordships that that task can be accomplished, and indeed is already being undertaken, most effectively without government intervention. Responsible operators are actively developing industry-wide initiatives which encourage a common approach to reducing risks and enhancing safety for all who visit and work in licensed premises.
In closing, I beg to draw your Lordships' attention to my conviction that it is both unreasonable and unworkable to impose regulation and its attendant cost on licensed premises. Today's pub industry should not be used as an instrument of social change. Attempts to do so will inevitably lead to the disruption of trade and the destruction of jobs.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, no one will doubt that it is an extra special pleasure for me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, on his eloquent and well judged speech. A Daniel come to judgment, indeed. From his great experience in the brewing industry and other industries he brings the courage to join in one of these controversial debates as an innocent maiden. When he is let off the leash for his future speeches, to which we look forward, we will be in for some rare treats.
Alas, I have to declare an interest as the chairman of FOREST, which is the leading European smokers' rights group. I have an even more anxious interest to declare as the part author of a forthcoming book, to be published by Duckworth next month, with the suitably lurid title Murder a Cigarette. I mention that only because it finally kills off the phantom of so-called "passive smoking".
Of course, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for the opportunity to dispel the smokescreen of stale rhetoric and shed a little light on this widely misconceived topic. I say most solemnly that after intensive study of the literature on so-called "passive smoking" I am left with not the least whiff of doubt that all the blood-curdling talk we hear is wholly misguided. It rests on nothing more substantial than pseudo-science, compounded of anecdotal evidence, selective surveys and statistical jiggery-pokery. The flawed findings are then solemnly spread by mournful individuals using a process I describe as passive thinking.
It may be thought special pleading, but the latest and largest survey on the subject, a 10-year survey conducted for the World Health Organisation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has just issued its report and concludes that there is,no relationship between childhood exposure to second-hand smoke at home and lung cancer".As regards so-called "spousal smoking", which sounds rather unpleasant, try as they might, the researchers had to admit that their findings were "statistically non-significant".
I earnestly appeal for an end to the mischievous propaganda about health dangers from "passive smoking". The way of a free society in settling such conflicts is not through the coercion of law and crude prohibition; it is the way of tolerance and mutual respect for the freedom of others. The true liberal should always seek accommodation before confrontation. In my view, that is the two-sided, unwritten compact of a free society.
The noble Lord said that voluntary negotiations are always taking place in order to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers. Even hospitals have begun to bring back smoking areas to avoid the conflicts which their bans produced. Despite their occasional authoritarian lapses, I urge Her Majesty's Government to stand firm against the divisive lobbying of ASH and its acolytes.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, I shall not go into the arguments as to whether smoking and passive smoking are health hazards. I simply refer the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to the ASH website which I visited when preparing for the debate. I assure him that if I were a smoker I would have discontinued smoking there and then. I suggest that if parents want to discourage their children from smoking they get them to play the Tobacco Explored game on the website. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, might play the game. I believe that it would make him change his mind.
Where smoking is concerned, there are spurious economics. There are 120,000 smoking-related deaths a year, but we still allow advertising to encourage it. Furthermore, 450 children take up smoking every day. Norway banned cigarette advertising and the number of children taking it up halved. The economics are distorted by manipulation and addiction. My noble friend Lord Janner told us about that. It is not enough for the Government to say that they will leave restrictions on smoking to consumer choice and to people's good sense. Addiction and manipulation distort that good sense. For instance, smoking is not allowed on any American flight, not because of a wave of anti-smoking feeling and rules, but because the airline staff sued their employers for failing to provide them with a healthy environment at their place of work.
British employers, too, have a duty under the health and safety Act to provide their employees with a healthy working environment. But what about the staff who work in restaurants which allow smoking and those who work in pubs which also allow smoking? Are they not also entitled to work in a healthy environment? Indeed, what about the staff who work in your Lordships' restaurants, the Library, Guest Room and bars? I would like to see the Government implementing the health and safety and COSHH regulations with more determination.
The other area in which the Government must act is that of children. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is wrong. There is little doubt that passive smoking increases the risk of respiratory tract infection in children. It increases the severity of the symptoms of asthma in children. Childhood respiratory illness contributes to the development of respiratory diseases in adult life even if the children become adult non-smokers. The Government take upon themselves the protection of children from all kinds of health hazards. By law we vaccinate our children and immunise them against measles and polio. So why not protect them from tobacco smoke? I am concerned that passive smoking is an area where adults are asserting their rights to the detriment of children and it is wrong.
The response usually given to this argument is in terms of the nanny state. It is the view of some that we need to be protected from an overbearing state. However, others believe that the Government should protect us from overbearing companies. I believe that there is a middle way—dare I say it, a third way. Where people are powerless there is a role for government to 1518 step in and shape society. Passive smoking is a case where the citizen is helpless and the Government must step in.
§ 7.51 p.m.
The Earl of Bradford
My Lords, first I would like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Daresbury on his maiden speech. He put forward a very sensible and well-reasoned argument in favour of retaining the status quo and encouraging the industry to solve the problem caused by smoking. Secondly, I should declare an interest as a committee member of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain and particularly as its spokesman on smoking-related issues. I am also a restaurateur owning Porters Restaurant in Covent Garden.
However, I find myself agreeing to a great extent with the noble Lord, Lord Janner. I have been an avid non-smoker for over 20 years. I loathe sitting in a restaurant with someone's cigarette smoke polluting my food. I remember on one occasion asking the redoubtable Dame Diana Rigg if she would refrain from smoking underneath my nose while I was trying to enjoy my main course. However, equally I could comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Haskel said about the nanny state. I feel that to extend it further—it looks as though we are going to rescind the beef-on-the-bone ban—would be an enormous mistake.
Laws were introduced in France which did not work. The French just ignored them. No prosecutions were carried out at all. A ban was introduced in New York which drove an enormous amount of business out of that city into the suburbs. Our polls within the industry have shown that not only does it not want it, but the public do not want it either. However, they also agree with us that there are three sensible options which the industry should adopt and which in fact the Restaurateurs Association promotes to its members extremely keenly.
First—and this has already been dealt with—there is ventilation. I have ventilation and air conditioning extraction in my restaurant. I can sit next-door—fortunately, there is a little bit of room between our tables—to a table of smokers and watch the smoke going straight upwards and out of the restaurant. Therefore, it does not cause me a nuisance in my restaurant. As a result we do not have a non-smoking area. We are promoting to the industry and our members that they should adopt proper ventilation. If they are unable to do so or to put in adequate ventilation, they should consider setting aside an area for non-smokers so that they are not forced to breathe in the smoke of the smokers in the smoking area.
The third option is that where restaurants are so small and cannot install adequate ventilation, they should consider the possibility of becoming completely non-smoking. So I, like the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, am trying to promote a middle way that relieves the Government of the responsibility and where the industry takes the responsibility on itself.
§ 7.55 p.m.
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on this Unstarred Question moved by the noble Lord, Lord Janner. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, on his excellent maiden speech; and I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, for showing us practical ways in which the restaurant trade can get over these problems and therefore accommodate both smokers and non-smokers.
In putting the case for the non-smokers, the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said that it is the right of non-smokers to eat in peace and comfort without having smoke blown into their faces—he might have added into their food, their lungs, onto their clothes, into their faces and ash flicked onto the food. I do not smoke cigarettes. I occasionally smoke cigars when in the company of Colonel Robbins, the distinguished Wiltshire soldier, who pointed his platoons into battle in Normandy in 1944 waving his cigar in the direction that he wanted them to go. I do take tobacco: I take snuff. If people find the taking of snuff offensive when I am in their company in a restaurant and they tell me so, I refrain. Likewise, I also ask people if they find it offensive and, if so, then I desist.
I am prompted to take part in this debate for one reason. When I ask questions of the Foreign Office and of the Ministry of Defence I normally roughly know the answer. I asked the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, in her former capacity as Minister of Health in a Starred Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, how much it cost the National Health Service to deal with those who are afflicted with diseases caused by tobacco. I did not know the answer. The answer was given in a written reply because the noble Baroness did not know it. She said that the figure was between £1.4 billion and £1.8 billion a year. That is a considerable sum of money and a large proportion of resources that could be spent elsewhere.
I return to the point as to whether we should try to ban or to restrict smoking. I am on the side of those who wish to restrict. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, for his ideas. I would like to see restaurants and public places of entertainment take the lead and set an example. The Daily Mirror informs me that several places have banned smoking already, such as Buckingham Palace, Wimbledon and the London Underground. We are all aware that a cigarette caused the ghastly King's Cross accident in which 31 people were killed five or six years ago. Smoking is also banned in public museums, galleries and restaurants. One can go outside if one wishes to smoke.
I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, who informs us that passive smoking does not cause cancer. The evidence points to the contrary. I hope that the Minister will give us a peep at the end of this debate into the White Paper. I wish to see positive ways in which restaurants and places of entertainment will be encouraged to put in a ventilation system and to provide a grant if necessary. I also hope that we shall be given a little peep to see how we can 1520 encourage young people not to smoke. Some of them are already smoking when they become teenagers. Self-regulation is better than legislation.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Janner of Braunstone mentioned James I as being a virulent anti-smoker. So was Adolf Hitler. I imagine that my noble friend would not want him as his ally in tonight's debate.
My noble friend made a moderate speech. Unfortunately his Question is not moderate. He is asking what plans Her Majesty's Government have to ban or restrict smoking in restaurants and other eating and public places—in other words, anywhere to which the public has access. People would not be able to smoke on the roads, on pavements, even outside the 200-mile limit, as well as on beaches, if the Government were stupid enough to agree to this particular Question.
Smokers are being hounded and demonised by government and other organisations subsidised by government. It is quite unjustified. Indeed, it is cruel. This persecution is based on flawed research concerning environmental tobacco smoke. These flaws were shown up starkly by the report to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, referred, which said that there was no significant risk to non-smokers' health through ETS. An attempt was made to pigeon hole that report, but it was unsuccessful and the report was published. The findings are clear and unequivocal. They state that ETS, environmental tobacco smoke, is not a risk to the health of non-smokers. Tobacco smoke may be irritating and unpleasant to non-smokers, but the risk to their health is negligible.
Why pick on the smoker? Enormous damage is caused to the health of people and society through alcohol abuse. Wives are beaten up, there are knifings outside pubs, children are beaten up through alcohol abuse. We hear very little about that. Indeed, people are greatly encouraged to drink even more.
There is the annual carnage on roads, with billions of pounds lost in destruction of property, not to mention the disease caused by vehicle emissions, especially from diesel vehicles.
Smokers may or may not do damage to their health—that is a matter for them—but it is now becoming quite clear that the ETS scaremongering has been based on junk and bogus science. It is a disgrace—not only because it has led to unjustified and vicious attacks on smokers but, as Professor Nisson of Stockholm University has said:ETS has been the victim of scientific dogma and this obsession with ETS is preventing research into other causes of cancer".As to restaurants, there is much more danger in restaurants from salmonella, lysteria and e-coli than there is—with apologies to the noble Earl, Lord Bradford—from environmental tobacco smoke. Perhaps we ought to concentrate on that.
§ 8.3 p.m.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, I have only three minutes and so I apologise to other noble Lords for not taking up the themes of their speeches.
At the outset, I must declare that I am totally against banning things and activities. There is far too much of it going on, from beef-on-the-bone to boxing, foxhunting and smoking. The last three are still legal activities, which is as it should be. The police have quite enough to do.
As to smoking in restaurants, that it is a matter for the restaurant owner. If he or, in his judgment, most of his customers want a smoking-free restaurant, that is entirely up to him. I am glad to hear that ventilation might overcome this problem. I do not believe that the Government have any business in intervening or telling the restaurateur what he should or should not do about this matter on his own premises.
In my opinion, exactly the same applies to pubs. Indeed, a ban on smoking in all pubs would almost certainly result in 90 per cent. of them being closed down. I do not believe that hardworking and often hard pressed restaurateurs and publicans deserve to be treated in this way.
When the 1948 anti-foxhunting Bill was debated in the other place, the then Labour Minister of Agriculture, Tom Williams, said:I hope it will not be said that a Labour Government was going round the country finding out what people were doing and telling them not to".I also hope that it will not be said in 1998.
Pressure groups like ASH will never be content until smoking is illegal everywhere, including in the home. Indeed, that situation has almost come to pass, or so I gather, in California, where you are not allowed to smoke within three feet of the window of your own house or in your own garden if another garden is next door to it.
That is tyranny. I fear that we may be on the road to a similar fate—banned from smoking, drinking more alcohol per week than the Government allows, eating beef, driving our cars, eating sugar and goodness knows what else.
A recent photograph appeared in the press. It was of an unshaven Frenchman of the Routier variety. He was sitting smoking a Gauloise under a large notice which read:Defense de FumerI would like to raise a brimming glass of cognac, with an alcohol level well above government guidelines, to salute this splendid guardian of liberty.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Simon
My Lords, I would like to acknowledge the assistance I have received from the National Asthma Campaign and the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Addenbrookes Hospital.
1522 Mention has been made of no smoking areas, the definition of which could be those places where tobacco smoke is present but where smokers are not—the smoke itself does not know that it is confined to any particular area and will drift everywhere.
In the time available it is not possible to mention the fact that about 85 per cent. of the smoke from a lit cigarette goes straight into the air, where it can be passively smoked; nor that tobacco smoke is made up of more than 4,000 chemicals, including some 60 known or suspected carcinogenic chemicals; nor that tobacco smoke causes difficulty for 80 per cent. of asthmatics; nor that the risk of hospitalisation of asthmatic children is greater where a smoker is present; nor that passive smoking during pregnancy may be a greater problem than is generally appreciated; nor that almost 50 children a day under the age of five are admitted to hospital suffering from illness linked to passive smoking, including asthma and bronchitis; nor that there was a 14 per cent. increase of bronchitis in children up to the age of 10 where the mother smoked more than four cigarettes a day, and this figure was increased to 49 per cent. when more than 14 cigarettes were smoked daily; nor that doctors back a ban on smoking in all public places; nor of the evidence of the increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer upon exposure to passive smoking; nor of the chronic respiratory symptoms in adults resulting from passive smoking; nor of the association between maternal cigarette smoking and the cot death syndrome; nor of the effects on infants' growth.
Every one of these statements is backed by scientific publications and has come from medical sources throughout the world. I have not been made aware of any scientific publications which encourage tobacco smoking and extol its virtues.
It is often said by smokers that it is their right to smoke—and so it is—but non-smokers do not have choice in respect of inhaling their smoke. I recently developed late onset asthma, and due to sensitivity to tobacco smoke, particularly pipe and cigar smoke, I am unable to go to most eating establishments—including your Lordships' dining rooms and watering holes, which I treat with due caution as I do not want to be very, very unwell—or places of entertainment. The noble Lord, Lord Hams of High Cross, knows personally that I am very adversely affected by passive smoking.
It is the freedom of smokers to smoke which determines where I and many others can go and, for purely health and NHS cost reasons, I hope that smoking will be curtailed. Ask a smoker dying of lung cancer if he regrets smoking and the answer will probably be no. Ask a non-smoker dying of lung cancer caused by passive smoking if curtailment should be imposed, and the answer will probably be that it should. Some sort of compromise can be achieved, and I hope that it will.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Janner of Braunstone, with great charm it must be said, asks Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ban or 1523 restrict smoking in restaurants and other public places, other eating places. In what is still, albeit by the skin of its teeth, a free country, I trust that the answer of Her Majesty's Government will be "None at all".
The right law to determine matters of this sort is the law of supply and demand. If customers object to a smoke-filled atmosphere in restaurant or cafá—and as a light smoker I myself dislike an excessively smoky atmosphere—or, alternatively, if they object to there being no facilities provided for smokers, they have a simple remedy—to boycott the establishment in question, in the same way as those who object to certain advertisements should simply resolve to boycott the goods being advertised rather than run off whining to the preposterous Advertising Standards Authority.
This simple exercise in determined consumer choice will ensure that before very long all eating places, save the smallest and/or poorest will feel themselves obliged, if only for the sake of economic survival, either to install the efficient and not unreasonably priced smoke extraction systems, which have recently been much improved and perfected, or to provide both smoking and non-smoking areas, as many restaurants and hotels in North America, on the Continent of Europe and indeed in the United Kingdom already do. Reference has already been made to that.
In a free country, I submit, the state has a right to intervene in such matters only to protect the citizen's health. Despite the contention of the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, the World Health Organisation has recently conceded that passive smoking does not cause cancer and is no serious threat to health, however irritating it may be. To protect people from mere discomfort or annoyance should be no business of the state.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Janner of Braunstone, for raising this extremely interesting question. I have two interests to declare. The first is that I do enjoy a cigar, particularly after a good dinner, and the second is that I am connected in many ways with various aspects of the hotel, restaurant and licensing trade.
The noble Lord, Lord Janner, began his speech by saying that if there is one thing smoking is guaranteed to do it is to create statistics. We have certainly had our fill of statistics this evening. I managed to get hold of a copy of the journal of the National Cancer Institute which contains a report on the report to which many noble Lords have referred. It is quite clear that, as in all these things, extremists and those holding extreme views tend to polarise towards the parts of reports they like to read. There are two aspects of the report which strike me. One is the conclusions, which state:Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer risk. We did find weak evidence of a dose response relationship between risk of lung cancer and exposure to spousal and workplace ETS".The report goes on to quote the interesting statistic that the increased risk from ETS from both spousal and workplace exposure is approximately 20 per cent., but 1524 that is to be compared with the risk of lung cancer from actually smoking, which is an increase of tenfold. That puts in measure the degree of risk.
The most important aspect of this question is whether it should be voluntary or obligatory to have some form of action. In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said that voluntary action simply does not work. I do not believe that to be the case. Today I received a report from the British Hospitality Association. It points out that eight out of 10 hotels in Britain are voluntarily restricting smoking in restaurants. The survey of nearly 700 hotels revealed that half have banned smoking in their restaurants. A further 30 per cent. have created non-smoking areas in their restaurants and nearly half offer non-smoking bedrooms. Great efforts have been made by hotels.
In his excellent maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, referred to a report by the BLRA. The report revealed that the BLRA has been conducting polls through MORI for more, than 25 years. In 1973, 55 per cent. of adults disliked most about pubs a smoky atmosphere. In 1982, the figure was 52 per cent. However, by 1992, that had fallen to 35 per cent. As the number of people and the number of smokers going in are roughly constant, that would indicate that increasing the amount of ventilation and other actions have been successful.
Ultimately, this should be a matter of choice. It is quite right to restrict smoking wholly in places of work; it is quite right to do it wholly on airlines, where there is no choice; it is quite right to do it wholly in concerts, where people are going to one concert. However, in the matter of hotels, restaurants and pubs, a degree of choice is open to the consumer and people do vote with their feet.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord McColl of Dulwich
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for bringing this matter to our attention and also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Daresbury, on his splendid maiden speech. If I am not mistaken, it was he who saved the Aintree race course and also won the Foxhunters' Chase at Aintree over the Grand National course in 1983 on Lone Soldier.
It may be worth emphasising that those who start smoking as teenagers and go on smoking 20 cigarettes a day have a one in two chance of taking 20 years off their lives. No one can contradict that. As has been pointed out, the statistical evidence incriminating passive smoking is not so clear, but it may be that the risks of heart disease and lung cancer are increased by about 25 per cent. in people who do not smoke but who live with smokers.
When we come to the risks involved in frequenting restaurants polluted by smoke, clearly the risks are very much less for people who are completely healthy. However, there are two categories of people who are at risk. The first category—I do not think this has been mentioned—is those who actually work in these restaurants all the time. The second category is those customers who are prone to asthma or heart disease, as 1525 mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I think the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has forgotten that it is well known that people who are prone to asthma can have an asthmatic attack precipitated by quite small quantities of smoke. As everyone is well aware, asthmatic attacks can be very serious indeed and can kill. The presence of smoke in the environment of those suffering from heart disease decreases the amount of oxygen that can be carried in the blood because of the carbon monoxide in the smoke. This may lead to angina. That, too, is certain evidence.
My impression of smokers over the past decade is that they have become much more considerate to those who do not smoke. The ideal arrangement is to build on this good will and go on developing voluntary codes based on courtesy and sound medical evidence. As small amounts of smoke can be very irritant to the eyes—that is definite—and as small amounts of smoke can cause asthmatic and heart attacks, these people have an incontrovertible right to be in a smoke-free atmosphere in restricted public places. As has been said, it is perfectly possible to have a good ventilation arrangement in restaurants or separate no-smoking areas, but on an airliner it is not possible. Smoking on an airliner will eventually contaminate every person on that flight. Therefore, the answer has to be no-smoking flights.
Personally, I believe that legislation is to be avoided. It is far too heavy-handed and of course very difficult to enforce. The extension of voluntary restrictions on smoking is a far more sensible solution.
§ 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 noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, spoke about the degree of risk. A clear link with several conditions such as lung cancer and childhood respiratory illness and 1526 exacerbation of asthma has emerged. There are several other conditions that current research suggests may be linked with passive smoking, though further evidence is required. My noble friend Lord Simon made many pertinent points on that, although I note the doubts of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, and my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
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 1527 that people react better to persuasion than regulation and because regulation can be too inflexible to allow individual circumstances to be taken into account.
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.
In the public sector, we certainly want to lead by example by controlling smoking in government and public sector premises, including the NHS. Most government and public sector premises including NHS 1528 hospitals already have non-smoking policies which either completely ban smoking on the premises or confine it to designated areas. We are considering carefully our approach to the problem of smoking in public places and whether there is a case for new measures.
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.