Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hewitt Fights on as the Smoke Clears

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hewitt Fights on as the Smoke Clears

Article excerpt

Byline: By Lyndsay Moss

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was yesterday forced to defend the Government's partial ban on smoking in enclosed public places in England as campaigners kept heaping on condemnation.

Ms Hewitt said that the ban, with exclusions for private members' clubs and non-food pubs, would begin in summer 2007 ( 18 months ahead of the previous timetable.

But she suggested that a total ban in all enclosed public places could follow when the legislation was reviewed after three years.

Ms Hewitt may have lost the battle with ministers who demanded a compromise on the smoke-free plans, but may still win the war and get the comprehensive ban she has said she prefers.

It is believed that former Health Secretary John Reid led opposition to a total ban as the Cabinet struggled to reach a consensus before the Health Bill was finally published yesterday.

Defence Secretary Mr Reid published the initial proposals in the Public Health White Paper last year, which included the exemptions campaigners claim will lead to greater inequalities in the most deprived areas.

There have also been concerns that the legislation will be unworkable, lead to unnecessary bureaucracy and leave England lagging behind other nations, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are already planning a full ban.

Ms Hewitt said yesterday: "I am proud to be Health Secretary and I am proud to be introducing a Bill that is going to make such a huge difference to the health of our country."

She said that by bringing forward the implementation of the ban to 2007, the Government was ensuring that benefits reached the public sooner."

Yesterday's Bill states that restaurants and pubs and bars preparing and serving food will be smoke-free.

But non-food pubs will be free to choose whether to permit smoking or not.

Ms Hewitt said private members' clubs would be expected to ballot members on the issue.

The Government intends to consult further on plans to prevent smoking in the bar area to protect staff in pubs where smoking is still allowed.

It is proposed that businesses will face a pounds 200 fine for not displaying warning notices in no-smoking premises. …

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