The smoke clears

Lord Rennard

When I first came to the Lords (1999) the library was inaccessible for me because it was very heavy smoking area.  Some of the dining areas were also unpleasant and dominated by cigar smoke.  I remember Charles Kennedy coming to an afternoon tea in the Peers Dining Room that I hosted for all of us involved in his diary planning team.  Charles was told off by the waiters as he arrived smoking a cigarette and taking off his jacket (it was July).   He removed the cigarette and was apologising for smoking when they explained that he was certainly allowed to smoke, but not to take off his jacket.

Times have changed and most peers like the vast majority of the public (according to polls) appreciate the freedom to be in a smoke free environment.  On Monday we debated the Government’s timetable for implementing the ban on point of sale tobacco advertising.  The law banning tobacco advertising was actually passed as a private member’s bill put forward by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones.    The 2008 Health Act proposed further measures to prevent the advertising of cigarettes at ‘point of sale’ eg with the chocolates, crisps and drinks that children see at their newsagents or on the way out of supermarkets.  The coalition’s tobacco control plan allows shops a little more time to spend the few hundred quid changing displays and looks towards consideration of ‘plain paper packaging’ as is being introduced in Australia to make the products even less glamorous.

On Monday we debated ‘a motion of regret’ from Baroness Thornton who would have liked the ban on point of sale advertising to be introduced more quickly.  Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Baroness Tyler were amongst those who spoke most effectively in favour of controlling tobacco promotion.  The Minister Earl Howe was certainly on the side of those of us who don’t want to see anyone, especially young people,  encouraged to smoke and who want to help those who have given up – or are trying to give up. 

My contribution to Monday’s debate is here and more of the personal reasons for opposing promotion of tobacco when I supported Tim Clement-Jones’s Bill is here.

7 comments for “The smoke clears

  1. Twm O'r Nant
    15/07/2011 at 11:31 am

    Charles Kennedy is an enthusiast isn’t he!?

    If he weren’t Scotch he wouldn’t be anything.
    One of the excellent personalities of the UK parliament, to whom always my complements, although my own brew is limited to strong demijohn Cider and plum wine production.

  2. Chris K
    15/07/2011 at 12:12 pm

    You can’t get much more of a ‘public’ building than Parliament. It is quite right that no-one there should feel unable to go about their lawful business because of someone elses smokey habit.

    In a privately owned establishment like a pub or bar, however, that argument completely falls down. If I want to let someone smoke in my property then I should be completely at liberty to do so. If by doing so I alienate other customers as a result then that is my look out and no-one elses.

    As for plain packaging I must say I’m not convinced at all. It’s patronising people for no obvious benefit. The deciding factor against is the removal of branding, which is effectively the removal of a company’s intellectual property and identity. Wrong.

  3. Senex
    15/07/2011 at 7:24 pm

    This is all very bizarre! The last time we had an appointed house was during Cromwell’s Republic. This Republic went bust because people were tired and fed up with the Puritan ethic. They instead restored the Monarchy because such royals relished and enjoyed life to the full something anathema to the outgoing regime.

    In the here and now these Puritans are still at large in Parliament spoiling everybody’s fun. If having led a full and enjoyable, but moderate life, smoking, drinking, dancing and a prancing the Treasury expects you to drop dead some thirteen years after retirement so that it can balance its books to eliminate a pension deficit.

    Here you are promoting longevity, stealing the fun from people’s lives oblivious to the need to find monies to pay for pensions. There is indeed something very bizarre about this political process, this unfunded political process that expects people to live longer but can never find enough money to pay them a decent pension.

    Puritans, always suspicious of pleasure and taxing with it!

  4. Twm O'r Nant
    15/07/2011 at 9:17 pm

    The crippling surgery inflicted on arthritis aufferers who have “bought” arthritis, confirms Senex’s opinion about what Treasury would generally like people to do.

  5. Dave H
    16/07/2011 at 12:13 pm

    When I was 18 I spent time in hospital with a lung issue. All bar one of the other patients on the ward were in for smoking-related illness, having lumps of lung removed and recovering painfully. I wasn’t keen on the idea of smoking before then, but having seen what it does to people, it put me firmly in the anti camp.

    Perhaps they should take children around the age of 14 for a tour of such wards in an attempt to discourage them from even considering smoking.

    My other proposal would be to bump up the minimum age for purchasing (and possessing) tobacco products by a year every couple of years, so that it gets ever harder for young people to start the habit.

    It is lovely to exist in a smoke-free environment, compared to what it was like when I was growing up and pretty much anywhere was filled with smoke.

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    17/07/2011 at 8:35 pm

    If you say “lump” in an NHS hospital alarm bells go off all round the hospital, and usually more damage is caused by “chemo” and/or removal, than just leaving it firmly where it is.

    If you say “bump” instead, then nobody notices, least of all the “onc-” department.

    A great deal depends on what you “buy” from the state monopoly.

    Eventually, in that forces expression, you will have “bought” it one way or the other, but preferably by your own choosing and not theirs.

  7. Lord Haskel
    Lord Haskel
    20/07/2011 at 11:04 am

    Shortly after I came into the House in 1993 I spoke about banning smoking because not only did it damage our health, but it also damaged the valuable books and furnishings. I said that I spoke with some authority as a qualified textile technologist. Subsequently the House authorities started to think about banning smoking in the library, but not elsewhere. Obviously damage to books and furnishings was more important than damage to health!

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