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Judge: U.K. smoking ban applies in prison too

| March 6, 2015

A high court judge has ruled that the U.K public-places smoking ban must be enforced in state prisons despite the possibility of unrest this could provoke in jails throughout England and Wales. According to Justice Singh, the justice secretary misunderstood an exemption made in 2006 to health legislation that banned smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces. Although the government had argued that state prisons were exempt from smoke-free legislation because of their status as Crown premises, Justice Singh ruled that prison communal areas are subject to the laws, therefore the smoking ban must be extended to such locations.

The exemption in the 2006 Health Act indicated that smoking is allowed in enclosed public places where a person resides permanently or temporarily, which includes prisons, hotels and long-term care facilities. However, the exemption also states that these places should provide designated smoking rooms to avoid subjecting other residents and staff members to secondhand smoke. According to The Guardian, more than 80 percent of prisoners smoke, and the justice ministry fought for the exemption when the health legislation went through parliament—partly in response to warnings by prison governors and unions who said banning smoking in prisons could trigger turmoil among prisoners who use tobacco as currency as well as a legal stimulant.

To continue providing prisoners with access to nicotine—but also to protect nonsmoking prisoners and staff members from the dangers of secondhand smoke—three U.K. prisons now offer e-cigarettes, which are generally believed to be less harmful than their combustible counterparts. Prisoners are currently permitted to smoke combustible cigarettes in their prison cells—as long as the smoker is over the age of 18 and the door is closed—as well as in outside exercise yards, but they cannot use these products in communal spaces.

Justice Singh has postponed the implementation of the ban and granted the justice secretary time to appeal against the ruling.

Turkey to toughen tobacco laws

| May 13, 2013

The Turkish government wants to toughen the country’s laws on smoking and alcohol consumption, according to a Trend news agency story quoting a Sabah newspaper report.

The report said that a new bill would be put before parliament, though it did not indicate when that would happen.

Under the bill, smoking, already banned in enclosed public places, would be forbidden in open public spaces.

The bill would ban smoking by public transport drivers, presumably only while operating their vehicles.

And it would increase the penalties for violating smoking bans.

NYC attempts to raise smoking age to 21, Chicago may follow

| April 23, 2013

New York City put forward a proposal Monday that, if adopted, would make it the first major U.S. city to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21 — the same age for buying alcohol, according to a story in USA Today.

The proposal is part of a decade-long, anti-tobacco campaign by outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has imposed some of the highest cigarettes taxes in the country, banned smoking in parks and run graphic ads on the hazards of smoking. Last month, his administration proposed a requirement that stores keep cigarettes out of sight unless an adult customer asks for them.

Hours after New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn proposed raising her city’s legal smoking age from 18 to 21, Health Committee Chairman George Cardenas (12th) talked about Chicago following the Big Apple’s lead, according to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“That’s something worth exploring because more kids are smoking now,” said Cardenas, who didn’t immediately provide data to back that up.

California lawmakers kill bill to ban smoking inside homes

| April 18, 2013

A bill to bar millions of Californians from smoking inside their own homes was rejected Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 746 would have made California the first state to venture into personal bedrooms and living rooms with smoking restrictions. It targeted condominiums, duplexes and apartments, according to a story published in The Sacramento Bee.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, proposed the measure to ensure that people who live in structures that share walls, ceilings, floors or ventilation systems with neighboring units are not subject to secondhand smoke.

The bill was rejected 5-2 by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee despite several amendments, including one that would have delayed fines from being issued until 2015.

Landlords already can prohibit smoking in their rental units, through a law enacted last year, but Levine’s bill would have imposed a mandatory ban statewide.

AB 746 would have permitted outdoor smoking near apartments or condos, but only in an area at least 20 feet from any housing unit and 100 feet from a playground, school or pool. The bill’s critics questioned who would enforce it, how, and what impact the bill would have on habitual smokers or on people with disabilities who could not easily leave their residences to smoke.