I STILL remember coughing up black, tar-stained phlegm after an evening out in London. No more! *pumps fist*
British Ban Indoor Smoking
By ALAN COWELL
New York Times
February 15, 2006
LONDON, Feb. 14 — After a tortured debate, Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for a total ban on smoking in indoor public places in England — a move that seemed certain to end the time-hallowed traditions of the smoky British pub, where a pint of ale and a cigarette once defined the downtime of generations.
The decision, by an unexpectedly high margin of 384 to 184, brought England into line with Ireland, which barred smoking in public places in March 2004, and with Scotland and Northern Ireland, where bans are to come into force over the next 13 months. The local parliament in Wales has also said it will seek a full ban. The English ban is expected to come into effect next year.
The issue was seen as so divisive in the ranks of the governing Labor Party that legislators were given what is called a free vote, allowing them to defy the party line.
The Tuesday ballot overturned the re-election campaign position of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, which had supported a partial ban permitting smoking in private members' clubs and pubs that do not serve food. The compromise would have permitted smokers to congregate in drinks-only pubs.
Opponents of that policy — including Patricia Hewitt, Mr. Blair's health secretary and, according to the Press Association news agency, Mr. Blair himself — had said passive smoking would damage the health of workers in any club or pub, whether food was served or not.
"This legislation is good news for tens of thousands of bar staff up and down the country," said Steve Webb, a legislator from the Liberal Democratic opposition. "The key issue has always been the health and safety of people who work in public places."
Ms. Hewitt said a total ban provided a "level playing field" among all premises serving alcohol.
The government says around 600,000 people will give up smoking when the new law is enforced. "This bill is going to save thousands of people's lives," Ms. Hewitt said, comparing the ban to the legal requirement to wear safety belts in cars.
Some smokers, interviewed on British television, said the decision was one more sign of a "nanny state" encroaching into private lives. But campaigners from many antismoking groups welcomed the move.
Alex Markham, the head of Cancer Research UK, called the ban "the most important advance in public health for 50 years" since researchers linked smoking to lung cancer. Ben Youdan, of the group No Smoking Day, said, "Compromises can't be made when protecting people against a killer."
People aren't allowed to drive drunk; why should they be allowed to chain-smoke in enclosed public spaces? Both have the potential to cause harm to others, and that is unacceptable. It's about time.