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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Ministers urged to ban public smoking
Smoking causes ill health
The government's top doctor has urged ministers in England to ban smoking in public places.

Sir Liam Donaldson, who is chief medical officer for England, said the move would cut deaths and encourage smokers to quit.

His comments come just days after doctors also urged the government to outlaw smoking in public places.

Sir Liam said the ban should apply to all workplaces and enclosed spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The Department of Health has indicated that ministers have no plans to introduce such a ban.

Public support

Earlier, the Office for National Statistics published a survey which suggested 87% of people would support such a move.

ONS survey findings
86% support restrictions on smoking in the workplace
88% support smoking restrictions in restaurants
54% support smoking restrictions in pubs
87% support smoking restrictions in public places

There was also wide support for restricting smoking in bars and restaurants.

Publishing his annual report on the state of the nation's health, Sir Liam said a ban would cut deaths from cancer and heart disease by reducing people's exposure to second-hand smoke.

An estimated three million people in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke at work.

Sir Liam suggested a ban would also encourage one in five smokers to kick the habit.

Sir Liam said a ban on smoking in public places in Vancouver, Canada, had resulted in a fall in the proportion of people smoking from 22% to 15%.

"International experience has shown that the way to rapidly and successfully tackle the health risks from second-hand smoke is to take action on smoking in public places," he said.

"Moves to make public places and workplaces smoke-free would create a climate in which 'no smoking' is the social norm."

He urged ministers to give "very serious consideration" to banning smoking in public places and added: "Parliament should set an example and become smoke-free."

Voluntary approach

The Department of Health said ministers will consider the proposal.

A spokeswoman said: "Major changes to increase the number of smoke-free places will only come about, or be accepted, if people want them.

We would prefer to continue working with the industry to raise awareness and change behaviour
Department of Health

"We would prefer to continue working with the industry to raise awareness and change behaviour."

A Bill outlawing smoking in any premises that sells food is expected to be debated in the Commons later this month.

However, it is unlikely to be passed unless the government backs it.

There are moves to ban smoking in restaurants and pubs in Scotland and Wales.

The Tobacco Manufacturer's Association criticised the proposals.

Its chief executive Tim Lord said: "We have voluntary codes in place to deal with this problem. We do not need legislation."

Broad support

But anti-smoking groups welcomed the move.

Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said: "The government must listen to the chief medical officer and move to ban smoking in public places now."

She added: "Smoke free laws are needed to protect both the general public and employees."

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's Director of Tobacco Control, said: "The public's exposure to the huge range of cancer causing agents present in second hand smoke must be reduced."

She added: "All over the world countries are adopting bans on smoking in public spaces - protecting children in the home, safeguarding employees at work and encouraging smokers to quit."

Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of Action on Addiction, said: "If there was a ban on smoking in public places it would need to be responsibly implemented.

"Companies would need to ensure that smokers were given the appropriate support and assistance to give up smoking prior to banning it in the work place. "

Professor Martyn Partridge of the National Asthma Campaign, said: "We welcome and fully support the CMO's steps to raise awareness of the dangers of second hand smoke."

The NHS Smoking Helpline will launch a new television advertising campaign next week highlighting the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "I hope this new TV advert reinforces the message to parents that smoking around children is definitely a health risk that should not be ignored."

The BBC's Karen Allen
"More than a thousand people a year are dying, inhaling other people's smoke"

Doctors urge public smoking ban
01 Jul 03  |  Health
Smoking ban passes first test
14 Apr 03  |  Politics

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