The smoke clears

July 14, 2011 5:00 PM

Chris RennardWhen 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.