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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
Passive smoking 'killing thousands'
Smoking is linked to 120,000 deaths annually
More than a thousand Londoners alone die from coronary heart disease every year because of passive smoking, a report says.

The study comes as more than 20 health organisations are demanding the government spends more tobacco tax trying to help low-income smokers to quit.

We need to make smokers more aware of the effects their smoke can have on non-smokers in the vicinity

Jennette Arnold
It has been carried out by the London Assembly's Smoking in Public Places Committee.

The report's authors found that people visiting smoky public places two or three times a week and those working in the hospitality industry are at high risk.

These places can include pubs, clubs, restaurants, casinos, concert halls or sports clubs.

The committee has released its findings after months of investigation into the damage caused by passive smoking.

It is also calling on the government to prioritise scientific research into passive smoking stating that it can trigger lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.

Committee chair Jennette Arnold said: "There is inadequate understanding of the links to heart disease and a clear need to raise public awareness of the health risks of passive smoking.

"In particular we need to make smokers more aware of the effects their smoke can have on non-smokers in the vicinity."

But Chris Proctor, head of science and regulation at tobacco giant British American Tobacco, said there was no science to support the claims made in the report.

Tax hike

Pressure groups want 2p in every pound of tobacco duty to be spent on policy - raising 152m from the 7.6bn raised each year, excluding tax.

Just 2p in every pound is hardly an excessive sum to return to smokers to help them quit and it would pay great dividends for health and the NHS

Clive Bates, Ash
This is almost three times the current level of expenditure, but only 10% of what smoking costs the NHS each year (1.5bn).

The anti smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) claims dealing with tobacco at source could play a major role in NHS modernisation and wants the Chancellor to build this into his thinking in the Budget.

Ash director Clive Bates said: "If they want the tobacco tax to pass the fairness test, then we are saying the government is morally obliged to do all it can to help smokers quit.

"Just 2p in every pound is hardly an excessive sum to return to smokers to help them quit and it would pay great dividends for health and the NHS.

Price increases

"This budget has to combine revenue raising, incentives to quit and proper support for smokers to create a single coherent tobacco tax policy."

Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Sir Paul Nurse, said: "If we are also going to tackle cancer at source then we need to use the price incentive to encourage smokers to quit.

"This encouragement needs to be coupled with first class help from the NHS, including developing the cessation services and ending the uncertainty over their long term funding."

Passive smoking is a killer
All 20 organisations lobbying for more money to be spent on helping low income smokers to quit have maintained their support for continuing price increases.

Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We need to ensure that smoking doesn't become more affordable over time as incomes rise, but importantly, tobacco tax policy must be backed up by support for smokers that want to quit.

"This is one of the key strategies in tackling heart disease in the UK."

Research for the No Smoking Day organisation shows 36% of smokers cite "expense" as a reason for saying they would not smoke if they had their time again.

Chief executive of No Smoking Day Doreen McIntyre said: "After health, smokers say the expense is the main reason for wanting to give up.

"Raising the price does emphasise what rotten value smoking is and does give many smokers just the excuse they need to make a really serious attempt to quit."

Click here to go to London

Smoking zone
Should smoking be banned in public places?
See also:

08 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Campaign to cut cigarette deaths
09 Jun 01 | Health
Fathers urged to quit smoking
14 Dec 00 | Health
Anti-smoking campaign cuts deaths
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