Britain is formulating no-smoking regulations designed to eliminate second-hand smoke aboard almost all commercial vessels operating in U.K. waters.
After the final consultation period seeking public and industry comments ends on May 11, the final regulations are expected to come into law in July 2007.
The proposed rules are the result of smoke-free provisions of the Health Act of 2006. Enacted to “recognize a person’s right to be protected from harm and enjoy smoke-free air,” the law originally targeted “enclosed or substantially enclosed premises” in landside public facilities.
Douglas Alexander, the U.K.’s secretary of state for transport, said, “The government announced last year that restrictions on smoking in enclosed work places, public places and vehicles would be introduced in England from July (2007). We now intend to introduce similar provisions to provide protection from second-hand smoke for people on vessels operating in U.K. waters, both at sea and on inland waterways.”
Any vessel carrying at least one passenger or one crewmember employed under a contract will fall under the new regulations. The goal of the regulations is to place “restrictions on smoking on board all vessels within the scope of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995, including fishing and inland waterway vessels, calling at ports within England and within the 12-mile territorial limit regardless of which flag they are registered with,” Alexander explained.
The new smoke-free regulations would not apply to U.K.-flagged vessels when they are outside the 12-mile territorial limit.
Smoking aboard vessels will be permitted in “entirely private space that is essentially residential” if it does not sacrifice smoke-free common, enclosed areas of a vessel. For existing vessels, the retention of smoking in private spaces may present technical challenges. For example, the final regulations are expected to specifically ban private space smoking if its “ventilation is shared with or discharges into the smoke-free areas of the vessel.”
The U.K. Department of Transport expects “that some vessel operators will opt for a complete ban but this is likely to be on the grounds of safety as well as on purely health considerations.” It cautioned vessel operators retaining private smoking spaces about the dangers of improperly disposed lighted cigarettes that have caused a number of ship fires in recent years. It also predicted vessel operators could achieve cost benefits by implementing the smoke-free rules, such as the reduced costs of redecorating enclosed spaces less often and possibly reduced insurance costs.
Enforcement of the new regulations would ultimately be the responsibility of the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), but that agency is not expected to “take a proactive enforcement role,” according to the Department of Transport.
Instead, MCA enforcement actions would be in response to complaints made by passengers and crew to health inspectors.