According to an article in The Publican, British Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt defended the government's exemption of private clubs from the proposed smoking ban, stating that private clubs should have the choice whether or not to allow smoking:
"Those clubs are non-profit-making organisations in which the members make the decisions, just as people make their own decisions in their own homes. It is therefore right to exempt membership clubs."
The Rest of the Story
Hewitt may not realize it, but I think she has pretty much destroyed the government's justification for the entire proposed smoking regulation. By her reasoning, it would be just as easy to argue that the decisions about whether smoking should be allowed in bars and restaurants should be made by the patrons of those establishments. If private clubs are beyond the scope of government regulation of occupational health, then so are bars and restaurants.
There is no rational reason why occupational health can be regulated for bar and restaurant employees, but not for employees of private clubs. The exemption makes no public health sense, and in trying to defend it, the Health Secretary has made it clear that the government has no consistent public health rationale for its proposed legislation.
I find it quite hypocritical for the Health Secretary to imply that health conditions are so bad that smoking must be eliminated in bars and restaurants, but not so bad that employees in private clubs need to be protected.
In my view, there is only one real reason why public health practitioners have often exempted private clubs from smoking regulations: politics. They perceive that there will be less political support for such a proposal. When will they have the integrity to simply admit that is the reason for the inconsistency in their proposed policies?