HC Deb 27 January 1967 vol 739 cc376-7W
Mr Pavitt

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now make a statement on smoking in public places.

Mr. K. Robinson

The Government have considered the suggestions which have been made by many hon. Members and others that steps should be taken to restrict smoking in such places as cinemas, theatres, restaurants, shops and offices. There is no doubt that many non-smokers feel great discomfort among people smoking in confined places. Breathing smoke-laden air may also aggravate the symptoms of people suffering from certain disabilities such as asthma or bronchitis, in some cases to the extent that they are forced to avoid places or situations in which high concentrations of tobacco smoke might occur, e.g. in cinemas. Also, people who have given up smoking, or are trying to do so, are subjected to strong group pressure towards smoking if they sit for any length of time in the vicinity of those who are smoking. The number of non-smokers has increased substantially in recent years and they now constitute about 46 per cent. of the adult population. Surveys have also shown that even among smokers a substantial minority favour a ban on smoking in cinemas, restaurants and theatres.

The Government feel that it would not be appropriate to seek powers for compulsory restrictions on smoking in such places, but that the proprietors should consider the interests and wishes of their clients and customers in the light of the considerations which I have mentioned, and act accordingly. "No Smoking" notices have been displayed and respected by the public on a voluntary basis for many years in some big department stores, most concert halls and many theatres. The Government urge other proprietors to consider extending this practice by asking the public not to smoke on their premises, or by setting aside parts of large premises, such as restaurants, for non-smokers. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I are writing to the main trade associations asking them to draw these considerations to the attention of their members. We are ourselves drawing them to the attention of the public transport authorities, and of hospital and local authorities. Government Departments are considering what action each should take in relation to their offices which are open to the public.