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.
Expectant mothers in the U.K. will be asked to take breath tests to show whether or not they have been smoking during their pregnancies, according to a number of media stories.
About 20 percent of women are estimated to smoke while pregnant, which is said to lead to low birth weights and to cause complications in pregnancy and labor.
Under NHS (National Health Service) guidance, pregnant women will be asked to take a test for carbon monoxide during antenatal appoints and given help to quit if levels are too high.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has scrapped plans to force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs, according to a story published today in The Sun.
Health ministers had been considering the move for a year. Proponents had insisted making packages bland would put smokers off — and stop kids from picking up the habit.
Cameron initially backed the plan, but has been persuaded it would damage the packaging industry. There were also concerns it could cost £3 billion in lost tax revenue and tie up the Commons in bitter arguments.
Cameron has now ordered the proposed law to be pulled from next week’s Queen’s Speech.
A Whitehall source said: “Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the government’s key purpose. The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”
Officials in Australia, the first to enforce uniform packaging, have admitted there was still no evidence that they cut smoking.
U.K. taxpayers could face a £5 billion ($7.67 billion) bill if ministers insist cigarettes are sold in plain packages.
The money would be awarded by courts to tobacco companies in recognition of the fact that the government had destroyed their brand equity, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, as reported on the This is Money website.
Legal challenges under the Human Rights Act or EU law could claim that requiring plain packages meant the industry had been unfairly deprived of its trademark rights, says a report by the think-tank.
The Australian government, which has introduced plain packaging, is being sued by companies for the loss of their brands.
The think-tank’s chief executive, Douglas McWilliams, said the use of plain packaging would lead to cheaper cigarettes as smokers became less aware of costlier brands and new entrants were spared the expense of marketing.
This would mean less money for the treasury with “a reduction in tobacco’s aggregate annual contribution to the Exchequer of between £219 million and £348 million.”
Thousands of jobs could be lost if plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco products is introduced, according to a story in the South Wales Evening Post, citing a report released and commissioned by Philip Morris Ltd.
The report suggests up to 30,000 of the 182,300 jobs in Britain’s small, independent retailers are at risk and concludes tobacco purchases will migrate to illegal street vendors, larger stores and purchases from abroad.
Douglas McWilliams, co-author of the report, said, “Convenience stores depend heavily on tobacco sales and the associated spending by those who drop in to buy cigarettes.
“All the survey evidence and simulation exercises available suggest that plain packaging would cause spending to move to illegal street vendors, larger stores and purchases from abroad. If this is replicated in real life, high streets up and down the country would be dealt a body blow.”
The UK government’s plans to license e- cigarettes have been delayed further, according to a story in the Times Of London.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency began a consultation in February 2010, but it said in March 2011 that it would take another 18 months to gather greater evidence on the health risks of using these products and the consequences of regulating them.
Now it emerges that whereas the government had expected to announce its regulatory plans this spring, it is no longer in a position to meet that deadline.