Smoking ban hailed as victory for health and safety at work

Hospitality employers, unions and health campaigners have welcomed the government’s decision to implement a total workplace smoking ban in England.

MPs last night opted for a blanket prohibition by a surprisingly large majority of 200. It strengthens the original proposal, which would have exempted pubs not serving food and private members clubs.

Under the regulations, which will come into effect in summer 2007, employers face a fine of £2,500 if they fail to stop people smoking in banned areas – more than 10 times the £200 originally proposed.

Mark Hastings, director of communications at the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We are pleased that MPs have ensured a level playing field for all, with no exemption for private members’ clubs. Such clubs are in direct competition with pubs, and they are not private places. They sell 1.2bn pints of beer a year, and their thousands of employees are subject to the same health and safety at work regulations as pub industry staff.

“Now the real hard work begins, preparing our customers and pubs for this cultural shift. There is still the prospect that hundreds of community pubs will close and people will lose their jobs.”

Kevin Rowan, northern TUC regional secretary said: “MPs should be congratulated for making the right decision despite pressure to look for a compromise. Secondhand smoke is the hidden industrial killer of the 21st century and this decision will tackle it head on.

“Of course, there is still work to do. We must ensure the legislation comes into force quickly and that compliance levels are high from the very beginning.”

Peter Hollins, director-general of the British Heart Foundation, said: “The vote is a landmark victory for the public health of this country and will save the lives of many people. We commend MPs for voting for the only acceptable result for the nation’s workers – legislation that protects everyone.”

Cancer Research UK said the ban represented the biggest step forward in public health for half a century.

Anti-smoking campaigners Action on Smoking and Health said it was “absolutely delighted”.

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