RETROSPECTIVE POLICY ANALYSIS OF BRITAIN'S SMOKING LEGISLATION
Published April 29, 2020, 1:38 p.m. by Moderator
The primary justification for smoking ban legislation in the United Kingdom was mainly to protect workers from the effects of second-hand smoke. Cast-off smoke is a major risk to public well-being, and measures such as ventilation are inadequate and ineffective. The smoking ban was also necessary to protect vulnerable groups such as asthmatic individuals, kids, and pregnant women. A smoke-free environment and reduced temptation would make it easier for ex-smokers to quit. Secondly, a smoking ban would serve to warn the public about the dangers of cigarette smoke. Adults would be less inclined to smoke in front of their children, ensuring homes are smoke-free (House of Commons Health Committee, 2005).
A few points of view argue against a smoking ban. The economic costs for pubs and other hospitality companies are insignificant compared to the savings in health costs. The United Kingdom is a democratic, tolerant society, and therefore the rights of smokers have to be taken into account. The rights of smokers are as crucial as the health risks second-hand smoke poses to workers. Moreover, cigarette smokers have other areas where they can still smoke. Smoking is associated with many chronic diseases such as lung cancer and type 2 diabetes (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).
Original Proposed Smoking Legislation
The initial suggestions proposed a total smoking ban in all community places and offices with the exemption of explicitly approved establishments. The smoking ban also extended to restaurants and licensed premises that served or prepared food. Smoking will not be allowed in the surrounding area of the pub or restaurant. Membership clubs and licensed premises that did not sell were allowed to select whether to permit or not permit smoking in their establishments. Prisons, hospitals, and nursing homes are special status zones. The smoking ban would come into effect in public places and licensed premises by the end of 2007 and 2008, respectively (House of Commons Health Committee, 2005).
The differences between the 2005 Health Bill and in the final legislation the Health Act 2006.
The main difference between the 2005 Health Bill and in the ultimate bill, the Health Act 2006 is that the latter further extends the prohibition to include vehicles and homes. The Health Act 2006 also gives the regulatory authority the power to enforce the smoking ban in addition to cash penalties for offenders. The proposals in the 2005 Health Bill only proposed smoking bans in public places and licensed establishments. The Health Act 2006 is a comprehensive adaptation of the 2005 Health Bill (Legislation.gov.uk, 2006).
The Health Act 2006, bars smoking in all public spaces in England. The Act states that all licensed premises in England are required by law to be smoke-free with the exception of premises contained in subsection (2), therefore the premises will be non-smoking areas only when opened to the community. The Health Act 2006 describes premises as any residential or business locations where people live, whether on a long-term or short-term basis including restaurants, nursing centres, and penitentiaries or similar spaces (Legislation.gov.uk, 2006).
The bill also prohibits smoking in all offices, which it defines as any space where two or more people work regularly or voluntarily. The ban extends to any areas accessible to the public to pursue and receive goods and services. In terms of exemptions, licensed premises are required to be non-smoking zones in only the parts opened to the public or are enclosed. The regulatory authority has the mandate with determining the boundaries of an 'enclosure' (Legislation.gov.uk, 2006).
The regulatory authority may also create additional regulations specifying the description of businesses, or special zones within identified premises, that are exempted or included. Licensed liquor establishments or membership clubs are exempt from the total smoking ban. Actors or performers are also exempted from the smoking ban if it interferes with the artistic integrity of their performance, the regulatory authority can allow smoking in those areas. Exemptions of areas of premises occur under specified circumstances and conditions or a combination of both. The terms may include marked designated smoking areas by the landlord or business owner. The regulatory authority has discretionary power to choose areas as either smoke-free or smoking zones (Legislation.gov.uk, 2006).
The Health Act 2006 also grants the regulatory authority to designate the conditions under vehicles could be smoke-free or smoke-exempt. The Act does not entirely cover hovercrafts and shipping vessels which fall under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. The Health Act 2006 also has a provision that states the locations, dimensions and design of no smoking signage. Any person(s) who breach the Health Act 2006 are subject to a fixed cash penalty payable within a specified duration. The regulatory authority has the discretion to assign enforcement authorities to enforce the laws. Any obstruction of an enforcement officer is subject to a cash fine (Legislation.gov.uk, 2006).
Winners and Losers of the Smoking Ban
The biggest winners of the cigarette prohibition law are the public, anti-smoking campaigners, hospitality workers and the UK Government. A YouGov opinion poll of at least 4,000 adults showed that nearly 75% of people in England support the smoking ban while only 12% wanted it scrapped. The smoking ban has resulted in falling smoking rates, and the massive awareness campaign has sensitised the public on the dangers of cigarette smoke. Adults are now more careful to light in front of their children or at home due to the inherent health risks related to cigarette smoke (Triggle, 2017).
The biggest losers of the smoking ban are tobacco companies and pubs whose sales have declined since the beginning of the smoking ban. Estimates indicated that almost 7,000 pubs closed between 2007 and 2015. Pub owners and critics have blamed the smoking ban for declining revenue. There are claims that the smoking ban has reduced the number of patrons who would instead drink and smoke at home than go to the bar. Pub owners blame the increase in the taxes as the primary cause of losses. The beer duty has risen by 42% from 2008 to 2013. Supermarkets entice shoppers with discounts on liquor products (Triggle, 2017).
Reasons for the apparent ability of the UK Government to influence legislation, and the inability of the tobacco companies and pub owners.
The respective governments in the United Kingdom were the principal policy actors in the enactment and enforcement of the Health Act 2006. The House of Commons has the duty of enacting laws that serve the public interest. Ethical utilitarianism dictates that a public good is only beneficial if it serves the interests of all, not a selected few. The smoking ban does not just serve the interest of anti-smoking campaigners and lobbyists. The Health Act 2006 was enacted to protect all including the smokers hence its acceptance by a significant majority of the public who are non-smokers (Barbry, Hartwell-Naguib and Barber, 2015).
Evidence suggests that the smoking ban has resulted in a fewer number of young people picking up smoking. The statistics also indicate a 50% drop in numbers of teenage smoking since the introduction of the smoking ban. The smoking ban has also encouraged smokers to quit smoking altogether. The National Health Service recorded a 23% increase in quit attempts made via its stop-smoking facilities. Research also indicates the smoking ban was particularly effective at increasing awareness about the associated risks of second-hand smoke, and it motivated smokers to protect those around them, on top of taking care of their health.
Cancer Research UK statistics indicate that smoking rates in the United Kingdom have dropped from a high of over 50% in the 1970s to a low of 17% in 2019. The first attempt to legislate the tobacco begun in 1965 with the prohibition of television advertisement of tobacco and related products. The ban on the endorsement of tobacco products was a measure implemented to discourage young people from taking up smoking. In the 1980s the UK government imposed additional taxes on tobacco products. In the 2000s the government instituted a raft of measures to curb the associated risks of smoking including ample health warnings on all tobacco packaging and a massive awareness campaign on both public and private broadcasters (Action on Smoking and Health, 2019).
Cigarette manufacturers and pub owners were negatively affected by the smoking ban as it coincided with the 2007/8 global financial crisis. The financial crisis had a considerable impact on the levels of incomes in the United Kingdom which further exacerbated the impact of the smoking ban. Despite the smoking ban, BAT and Imperial Tobacco are among the top five biggest cigarette companies in the world (Action on Smoking and Health, 2017). British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco are presently valued at $26.1 billion and $20.1 billion, respectively indicating that the prohibition has had little to no effect on its revenues (Conway, 2018). The reduction of pubs and the resulting job losses are not singularly attributed to the smoking ban. There are other economic factors, such as the 2007/8 financial crisis that negatively impacted most businesses.
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Barbry, C., Hartwell-Naguib, S. and Barber, S. (2015). Smoking in public places. [online] Researchbriefings.parliament.uk. Available at: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN04414 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
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