The Big Smoke Debate

A new campaign, launched today by the London Health Commission, is inviting Merton residents to vote on whether they would prefer to see the capital’s enclosed public places, such as restaurants, pubs and shopping centres, become more smokefree.

The initiative, called The Big Smoke Debate, is one of the first times citizens of a British city have been asked for their opinions about this important issue. It promises to be one of the biggest health consultation exercises that London has seen.

The debate coincides with new MORI research which shows that currently
7 in 10 (71%) of Londoners surveyed are bothered by other people’s smoke in enclosed public places, with 67% of these citing health reasons (mainly breathing difficulties). In addition, over a third (35%) of respondents have either left or avoided going to a place that serves food or drink, because of tobacco smoke .

Londoners are being asked to air their views on this issue by logging onto http://www.thebigsmokedebate.com or via The Londoner, the Mayor’s newsletter, which is distributed free to all households in London.

The campaign is not about whether people should smoke, but where smoking should occur. It has been designed to elicit detailed responses about the type of restrictions on smoking Londoners would like to see in a range of different enclosed public places. People are given the option of whether they would like to see certain places completely smokefree, mainly smokefree, mainly smoking or allowing smoking throughout.

The results will be presented to the Mayor, Ken Livingstone and the members of the London Health Commission. The Mayor commented: “I welcome the Big Smoke Debate because it gives Londoners a voice about a health issue which is important to their lives. I look forward to hearing what the public wants done about smoking in enclosed public places and to working in partnership with groups across the capital to increase Londoners’ access to healthier, smokefree venues.”

Chair of the London Health Commission, Len Duvall, commenting on the campaign, said: “Smoking is something that affects all Londoners, whether they smoke or not, and it is an issue that everyone will have an opinion on. We want to give people in London the chance to have their say on whether they think smoking should or should not be allowed in a range of public settings.”

Evidence suggests that programmes to create smokefree environments protect people from serious health problems, such as asthma and lung cancer, while prov