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Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the Approved Code of Practice on Smoking in the Workplace. [106631]

If we are to ensure protection against passive smoking in public places, we need action nationally and locally both to raise awareness of the risks associated with passive smoking and to increase the prevalence of smoke free environments. The Department will continue to encourage the development of smoke free policies, working with employers and communities.At a national level, the Department has, since 1998, worked with the hospitality industry to reduce the problem of exposure to passive smoking through the development of a Public Places Charter. The Charter commits signatories to increase the provision of facilities for non-smokers, improving ventilation and giving customers better information about the level of smoke free facilities in an establishment. An independent evaluation of the Charter has been commissioned, and further work will be considered on the basis of the findings.The Government are giving careful consideration to the Health and Safety Commission's proposals for an approved code of practice (ACoP). We encourage all employers to introduce smoke-free workplaces, but are particularly concerned about the implications such a code would have for the hospitality sector and small businesses. While consideration of the ACoP continues, other action is being taken to encourage the provision of smoke-free areas in public and workplaces. We recognise that making places entirely smoke free is not always going to be possible and encourage in these circumstances other measures to be taken to reduce people's exposure to smoke.Locally, the Department is funding tobacco control alliances across England to work in communities to raise awareness and to increase the number of smoke-free environments. Findings from these projects will inform future development of the Department's work in this area.The Department will, in addition to action already underway, develop education and information resources to raise awareness and understanding of the risks associated with passive smoking.