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Thursday, March 10, 2005

No smoke without fire

Yesterday was "No smoking day" and the Welsh Assembly Government marked the occasion by declaring that henceforth all of their buildings will be smoke-free. The one exception to this was the building in Cardiff Bay in which the Assembly holds all its meetings and where we have our offices. This is because that building is managed by the House Committee on behalf of the Assembly Parliamentary Service.

The one concession made by the House Committee was to close its smoking room for the day. Thus, when I popped out of Plenary for five minutes to take some papers back to my office, I observed a gaggle of Assembly Members huddled outside in the cold enjoying a smoke.

The smoking room in the Assembly building is situated next to the Fees Office and not only can the smoke be smelt in the corridor and by the lift, but it can also be smelt in the Fees Office itself. The effects of second hand tobacco smoke and the fact that ventilation is ineffective in removing the most damaging particles is well-documented. We are therefore failing in our duty to protect the health of our staff, visitors and Assembly Members from the pollution generated by this room.

I have argued for some time for the smoking room to be removed and for the building to be completely smoke-free but the powers-that-be have been dragging their heels. They have put in monitoring equipment, they have deferred discussion for further consideration and they have generally prevaricated about making any decision whatsoever. There are other alternatives such as outdoor shelters but so far no costings or concrete proposals have been received.

With the Smoking in Public Places Committee due to report its conclusions in May it must be time to end this embarrasment and close down the Assembly's smoking room as soon as possible. A failure to act may well lead to some awkward questions as to who is delaying this vital health and safety measure and why?
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