THE END OF SMOKING IN PUBLIC ?
Three months after the Irish law against smoking in public places, rules are in place which could see Wales follow this example one day in the future.
A committee in the Welsh Assembly is considering the issue of smoking in public. The assembly government cannot forbid this yet, but a bill launched by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and due before the House of Commons will give them that power in the future.
Baroness Finlay, a cancer expert, began to introduce her Smoking in Public Places (Wales) Bill in December last year. It is going to be debated in the House of Commons soon. If it becomes law, the bill will give the Welsh assembly the power to follow similar examples Ireland, Norway, California and New York.
Assembly members already voted in principle to ban smoking in public places in January 2003, but did not have the powers to impose this at that time. Last week, they voted to set up a committee from the four main parties to re-examine the question.
In response, a brewing firm in Cardiff launched a survey among its staff and customers to see what they think about the question. After recently opening a non-smoking pub, it started a 10-day survey in 100 Cardiff venues to find out if customers want more restrictions on smoking. The idea is to find out what the public really think, especially those who go to pubs regularly. If they find there is a lot of support for the ban, they will take the necessary action.
Certainly, customers in this non-smoking pub seem to appreciate it. People are prepared to travel further to it, if it means they can relax in a smoke-free environment. It is also a better place to go with children. Even smokers who attend the pub do not seem to mind going outside if they want to light up.
On the other hand, some people think that a total ban will not be successful. A number of restrictions could be considered. Publicans have a duty to protect their staff, so they could have a ban in the bar area only. It seems that statistics from Ireland and New York show that business reduced after the introduction of complete bans. There is an obvious question about jobs and unemployment as a result.
After Ireland and Norway, other countries in the European Union are considering similar laws. At the moment, we must wait and see what results the future will bring for smoking in public.