As of July 1 it will be illegal to smoke in enclosed public places in
England. The law has divided the country with those for it saying it will save
thousands of passive smokers' lives. Those against it say it is a denial of
smokers' civil liberties. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from
The smoking ban covers all enclosed public places,
including offices, factories, pubs and bars, but excludes outdoors and private
homes. The government and the anti-smoking lobby view the law as protection for
non-smokers from passive smoking. It is also hoped it will encourage some
smokers to give up the habit.
Elspeth Lee, a spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK, said the ban should lead
to a reduction of smoke-related cancer deaths in the long term.
"106,000 people a year die of smoking-related diseases, which obviously
include heart disease and many other illnesses," said Lee. "We know that smoking
is the single greatest cause of cancer and all those deaths are entirely
"This measure is being brought in to protect people predominantly from
second-hand smoke exposure. But we also do know from countries that have gone
smoke free that it will help some smokers to quit as well, which is a great
thing," she added.
But despite the scientific evidence that smoking does kill there are those
who argue that the ban is a violation of their civil liberties.
Simon Clark is the spokesman of the pro-smoking Freedom Organization for the
Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco. Clark is a non-smoker but he is very passionate
in his belief that the government is being too intrusive in what should be
"We are not against smoking bans as such but we are against the extent of the
ban which is going to include every single pub, club and restaurant in this
country," said Clark.
"They want to reduce the smoking rates in this country from 25 to 21 percent
by 2010 but tobacco is a perfectly legal product; adults choose to smoke and
it's not for government to force them to give up; by all means government has a
role to play educating people about the health risks of smoking in the same way
they have a role to play educating people about the health risks of drinking too
much alcohol or eating too much fatty foods and dairy products, but politicians
these days seem to be interfering in our lives in a way that was unimaginable 20
or 30 years ago," he continued.
Clark also argues that it should be up to the owners of the establishments
where the ban is being enforced to choose whether they want them to be smoking
or non-smoking areas. However, he acknowledges that the pro-smoking lobby has
lost the battle but the war continues. His group intends to keep the pressure on
government to amend the law.
According to polls, most English people say they are in favor of the ban, but
it does have quite a few opponents in that very English institution, the pub.
Some pubgoers say it will never be the same after July 1. VOA visited a London
pub and spoke to a few smokers.
"My real objection would be that I don't think it should be legislation I
think that it would have been perfectly doable to have made areas within pubs or
bars or clubs where people could smoke and those who didn't want to didn't have
to," said one smoker. "If it is really about public health and allowing people
to not be in smoke-filled environments, then equally you should allow people to
be within smoke-filled environments as I clearly would prefer. The idea of
legislating for lifestyle choices is not a good idea in my opinion."
"I am a smoker, but I don't mind the fact that we can't smoke in front of
other people," said another smoker. "I look at the civil liberties of my fellow
people in the pub. Passive smoking is an obvious fact, so I don't mind the fact
that we can't smoke in front of them anymore."
A female friend of his who does not smoke said while she has sympathy for her
smoking friends, she welcomes the new law.
"I am actually looking forward to the fact that I can walk into pub or
bar and not really have my clothes and hair stinking of smoke at the end of the
night so I have to say it's a bonus for non-smokers," she said.
So on July 1 no smoking signs will go up in England, just like they have
already in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the other countries that make
up the United Kingdom.