Anti-smoking lobby to fight on

The decision by MPs to back a full smoking ban may spell the death of lighting up in enclosed public places, but it won't be the end of the Smokefree Action coalition, according to coalition leader Action on Smoking and Health.

"I think the coalition has a future until the law is in place and maybe beyond that if there are difficulties around enforcement," said Amanda Sandford, research manager at ASH.

Members of the coalition, including Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, are meeting this week to discuss the coalition's next move. But Sandford expects more work will be necessary on possible exemptions to the ban, which could include prisons and care homes.

"We acknowledge there are certain places where it is difficult, but not necessarily impossible, to implement a total smoking ban because there is a grey area where, for example, workplaces are also people's homes," Sandford said.

But she added: "People are going to these places as part of their normal work routines and they should not be subjected to other people's tobacco smoke."

The coalition's immediate future will involve lobbying peers as the Health Bill goes through the House of Lords.

Charities will also consult Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, over details such as the definition of enclosed public spaces.

Sandford believes Smokefree Action could survive beyond the current law.

She said: "We have a tradition of working closely with allies, so maybe the coalition will address other issues, but this remains to be seen."

Despite its defeat, the pro-smoking lobby isn't giving up either. Pro-smoking pressure group Forest has vowed to fight the coalition at every step.

"We do not see this as an end to the war on smoking," said Simon Clarke, head of press at Forest. Clarke expressed fears that Smokefree Action could follow the example of similar groups in the US by extending its campaign to outdoor spaces, cars and smoking on television.

"We're concerned that the anti-smoking lobby is so full of confidence that it will feel it can ask for almost anything," he said.

"We're also worried about possible employment discrimination against smokers."

- See Peter Cardy, page 24

FACT FILE

- Although Parliament has voted for a full smoking ban, the Smokefree Action coalition will continue to exist

- The group intends to oversee the introduction of the laws and any difficulties surrounding enforcement

- The pro-smoking lobby also intends to fight on and has voiced concerns that the anti-smoking lobby will demand further smoking restrictions.

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