Mark Hunter promises "I'm voting smokefree"

February 6, 2006 1:55 PM

Cheadle MP Mark Hunter has pledged his support for a comprehensive smoking ban in the run-up to this month's all-important vote in the House of Commons.

The MP will back the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) call for the exemptions allowing some pubs and clubs to continue to allow smoking to be scrapped.

At an event at the House of Commons last week, Mark stood side-by-side with the Chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, Kevin Barron (see attached picture). The influential Committee last month tabled an amendment to the Health Bill which, if it wins the votes of enough MPs, will secure a comprehensive smoking ban in England.

The Bill as it stands includes exemptions which would allow private clubs and pubs that do not serve food to continue to allow smoking. The BHF and the Committee believes this is unacceptable and illogical, and will leave thousands of workers unprotected from the proven health dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke.

Mark said, "It is clear to me that only a comprehensive ban will adequately protect people's health in Cheadle and across the country."

Maura Gillespie, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The BHF has still not heard a logical explanation for why a minority of workers, many of whom live in the poorest areas, should be denied the same protection that this Bill offers to the majority.

"The proposed exemptions offer an inexplicable loophole that will create confusion and widen health inequalities - without even satisfying the pub trade or the vast majority of the public. We are delighted Mark has pledged to vote for the only sensible and workable solution: a comprehensive smoking ban."

All MPs who demonstrated their commitment at the Parliamentary event received a certificate of thanks from the Health Select Committee for agreeing to support the amendment.

Kevin Barron said: "If carried, the amendment will greatly strengthen that part of the Health Bill which aims to protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"It is crucial that we get the vote of MPs from all parties to ensure that the proposed exemptions are removed. We therefore welcome the support of Mark, who has demonstrated that he is committed to protecting all his constituents."

The medical evidence for the need for a ban is now well established. It has support from all members of the Smokefree Action Coalition, which includes the BHF, Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and ASH.

The evidence includes:

• There is a clear link between passive smoking and heart disease, with an increased risk of developing heart disease in non-smokers of 50% ;

• You do not have to be exposed to cigarette smoke for long for it to damage your heart - just 30 minutes in a smoky atmosphere is enough to reduce coronary blood flow ;

• Exposure at work may cause more than 50 deaths in the hospitality industry per year - almost one hospitality worker per week.

The vote will take place during the Report Stage of the Bill, which is expected to take place on 14th February.

ENDS

For more information please contact the BHF press office on 020 7487 7172 or 07764 290381 (out of hours) or email newsdesk@bhf.org.uk.

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