SmokeFree Liverpool leads way to smoke-free United Kingdom

Geoff Roberts/Liverpool

The experience of Liverpool in becoming smoke-free exemplifies the strong role municipal leaders have to drive national agendas and policies. Spurred by strong municipal commitment, an effective strategy, and a comprehensive law to include compliance and active enforcement, the 2004 Liverpool City Council vote to pursue a Local Act of Parliament to make the city smoke free was instrumental in the passing of the United Kingdom’s national legislation in 2006.

Liverpool pushed for city-wide legislation but it preferred national legislation. In the event, a national smoke-free law, for which SmokeFree Liverpool was actively campaigning, was introduced. On 14 February 2006, the UK Parliament voted in favour of national smoke-free legislation and the 2006 Health Act, of which the smoke-free legislation was part, was passed. It came into effect on 1 July 2007.

Fact file: Liverpool

Population: 435 000

Smokers: 28% (over 16 years old)

The law is highly protective and in line with the Liverpool City Council (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) bill that was progressing through Parliament. The law requires all enclosed public places and workplaces including public transport, company vehicles, restaurants and bars to be 100% smoke-free. Contrasting with an earlier draft of the legislation, and in line with the proposed SmokeFree Liverpool law, there was no exemption for smoking in private members clubs or in pubs that did not serve food.

There are a few explicit exemptions that permit smoking indoors. Hotels can permit smoking in designated bedrooms. Smoking is also permitted in bedrooms or rooms used only for smoking within care homes, hospices, offshore installations and prisons.

SmokeFree Liverpool, the main actor of Liverpool’s smoke-free intervention, benefited from research capacity, communications, legal expertise and support from professional lobbyists. They adopted two complementary strategies. First, it aimed to achieve smoke-free legislation. To do this, it pursued local legislation whilst pushing for the preferred option of a national smoke-free law. At the same time, the partnership encouraged workplaces to become smoke-free voluntarily. Liverpool focused on lobbying for legislation as well as direct involvement of public for the purpose of achieving local smoke-free legislation.

Effective leadership and partnership and local “Champions” demonstrated a strong drive to make things happen and a willingness to work together. Although their original purpose was to pass local legislation, their effort led to a national smoke-free law.