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English Churches Must Post No Smoking Signs
Public places ban takes effect July 1
Peter Hinchliffe (Hinchy)     Print Article 
  Published 2007-05-15 01:49 (KST)   
The woman was in a hurry to leave the village parish church. She had attended the Christening of a baby girl last Sunday. As soon as the service ended, she sped towards the door. A few minutes later, while chatting with friends over a cup of coffee in the church hall, I saw her standing in the porch outside the church door. She was desperately inhaling cigarette smoke.

If the woman returns to St John's seven weeks from now and smokes in the same place she will be breaking the law. A ban on smoking in all public places and workplaces in England comes into force on July 1.

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Local government authorities will enforce the new law. Some authorities insist that churches and other places of worship should post "No Smoking" signs on or near their doors.

Some fear the signs would blight England's picturesque and historic churches, some of which date back a thousand years. Visitors to Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, and other great churches will be confronted by a "No Smoking" sign before entering the holy premises.

Officials will also insist that mosques, synagogues and temples also indicate that they are no-smoking establishments.

Offices, factories, shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, membership clubs, public transport and work vehicles that are used by more than one person will also be Smoke Free zones from July 1.

Those who control or manage premises designated as smoke-free will be committing an offense if they fail to stop people smoking. There is also a legal duty to display no-smoking signs.

Indoor smoking rooms, now provided by many employers for their staff, will no longer be allowed. Workers will now have to go outside to smoke.

Employers are not required to provide outside smoking shelters. If they do so they must ensure that these shelters are not enclosed, or "substantially" enclosed. West Lancashire District Council has already told its staff that they will not be allowed to take outside smoking breaks during working hours.

Local councils are training staff to enforce the new No Smoking law.

Nicotine addicts risk a fine of 占200 ($400) if they light up in the wrong place.

Similar bans on smoking in enclosed public places are already in force in Scotland and Wales.

British campaigners are now demanding a ban on smoking while driving. The Local Authority Road Safety Officers' Association, which represents the councils responsible for maintaining the country's roads, will soon meet government transport officials to ask that smoking while at the wheel should be made illegal.

The association says there is the risk of an accident when drivers take their hands off the wheel to find, light and smoke cigarettes. Lighted cigarettes can be a danger if they are dropped, or blow back into a vehicle after being thrown out of a window. It fears that the July 1 ban on smoking in public premises may lead to more people smoking in their cars.

Any proposed law banning smoking while driving would meet stiff opposition from some politicians and many individuals who would see it as an interference in civil liberties.

The Indian capital city, New Delhi, introduced a ban on smoking and driving two months ago. Qamar Ahmed, the city's traffic commissioner said that anything that distracts a driver is dangerous. The human mind cannot do two things simultaneously, he added.

Those caught smoking while driving in the city of 14 million will have to pay a $32 fine. Those caught offending more than five times will have their licenses revoked.

In Germany a general ban on smoking in cars is being considered because it is a health hazard and a safety risk.

The German government's commissioner for substance abuse Sabine Baetzing said a ban on smoking in cars was urgently needed even if it would represent an invasion of privacy.

I can vouch for the dangers of smoking in cars. A few months before I quit smoking -- more than 40 years ago -- a colleague and I attended a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. We drove there from Yorkshire in his new car, a four-day-old Ford.

I was then smoking more than 40 cigarettes a day. Nearing the Scottish border, as we traveled through splendid moorland scenery, I threw a lighted cigarette butt out of the window.

A few miles further on my colleague said he could smell burning.

"It's the new car," I said. "New cars have a special smell."

Eventually we discovered that the lighted cigarette butt had blown back into the car, landing on he rear seat. There was now a hole in the seat big enough to put one's fist into.

And I was taught a costly lesson in the risks of throwing away cigarettes which were still alight.

As I walked to the church car park on Sunday the woman who had beat a hasty retreat at the conclusion of the service was going on ahead of me.

She was holding on to two children, one with her left hand, the other with her right.

A newly-lit cigarette was between her lips.

The July 1 law will hit her hard.

- English Churches Must Post No Smoking Signs by Peter Hinchliffe (read by Claire George) 

©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Peter Hinchliffe

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