BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Medical notes
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 12:10 GMT
Doctors call for public smoking ban
Smoky bar
The report looks at the effects of passive smoking
Doctors are calling for laws to ban smoking in public places to be introduced "as soon as possible".

A report from the British Medical Association warns 1,000 people are dying every year as a result of passive smoking.

It also calls for a new tax on all tobacco company profits, which it wants to be ploughed in to public awareness campaigns on the health risks of passive smoking.

The BMA says the money could also be put towards the development of smoke-free public places.

It's time the tobacco companies picked up the tab for the harm their products are doing

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA

The charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has also announced it is to press for a Bill outlawing smoking at work to be introduced, to protect workers from the effects of passive smoking.

It would impose a general ban, but allow exemptions in some circumstances, such as in residential homes.

Eighty per cent of the population do not smoke.

But a quarter live with a smoker, and millions are exposed to smoke fumes in public places.

Vulnerable groups

The BMA says a public place is any enclosed space with public access, such as shops, banks, taxicabs, and the workplace.

The jury is still out on the effects of passive smoking

Simon Clark, Forest
A recent poll showed 86% of people were in favour of smoking restrictions at work. But the BMA estimates 3m people are still exposed to tobacco smoke while at work.

It says there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

And it warns certain groups are especially vulnerable.

Passive smoking has been linked to lung cancer, heart and circulation problems in adults.

The BMA said those at risk include:

  • 8m with lung disease
  • 2.1m with angina
  • 1.3m who have had a heart attack
  • 300,000 who have had a stroke
  • 10.8m women of childbearing age
  • 750,000 pregnant women

The BMA says children, who make up 20% of the population, are also at risk including the 1.5m who have asthma.

Passive smoking has also been linked with an increased risk of meningitis, cot death and chest infections in children.

Other recommendations of the report include:

  • Public information campaigns on the health risks of passive smoking
  • Health warnings on cigarettes should make clear the risks, specifically to babies, children, pregnant women and those with heart and lung diseases

Tax call

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, said: "By not banning smoking in public places the government is putting the health of vast numbers of the population at risk and is also placing a huge burden on the NHS."

People cannot be treated as children

Mel, London

She added: "In line with 'polluter pays' principle it's time the tobacco companies picked up the tab for the harm their products are doing.

"The government could make a start on this by taxing them to pay for public health campaigns on the risks of passive smoking."

Dr Sinead Jones, director of the Tobacco Control Resource Centre, who wrote the report, said: "Tobacco smoke is a potent cocktail of over 4,000 toxins - more than 50 cause cancer.

"Evidence has existed since 1983 that passive smoking harms health and yet the government has only focussed on voluntary measures to curb smoking public places - it's not enough.

"We will be doing all we can to put pressure on the Government to take action - we don't want to wait five years as we did for a ban on tobacco advertising."


Clive Bates, director of ASH, said: "They just can't go on ignoring a source of cancer and heart disease in the workplace as if it is some trivial annoyance.

"If something as toxic as cigarette smoke was leaking out of a machine or a pipe, then the authorities would have banned it years ago."

He welcomed the BMA's involvement in the passive smoking debate.

"If they move that on by strength of argument and by the power of their position as doctors, then they will have done smokers, non-smokers and the NHS a great service.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' rights organisation Forest, said: "Smokers should be conscious of those around them, especially children, but this a matter of simple courtesy.

"It is absurd for campaigners to demand further restrictions on smoking. They'll be saying we can't smoke in our own homes next."

He added: "The jury is still out of the effects of passive smoking."

The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"About 80% of the public are non-smokers"

Passive threat
Should smoking be banned in public places?
See also:

22 Oct 02 | Health
05 Oct 02 | Health
01 Aug 02 | Health
17 Aug 99 | Health
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |