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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Doctors urge public smoking ban
Smoking in bars and restaurants is not banned in the UK
Doctors have called on the government to ban smoking in public places.

A motion proposing a ban was passed overwhelmingly by doctors attending the British Medical Association annual conference in Torquay.

Such a move would see smoking outlawed in restaurants, bars, taxis and all workplaces.

However, the Department of Health said it had no plans to introduce such a ban.

Doctors said the policy is needed to protect people from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Clear evidence

Dr Colin Hamilton, a public health doctor in Northern Ireland who proposed the motion, said there was clear medical evidence to support a ban.

"There is a 20% to 30% increase in lung cancer and a 20% to 35% increase in heart disease for people exposed on a long-term basis to second hand smoke," he said.

We do not think a universal ban on smoking in all public places is justified
Department of Health spokeswoman

He praised the recent decision of the Irish government to ban smoking in public places and urged the British government to follow suit.

He suggested the general public should be given time to come to terms with any new law.

"The legislation should come in and then take some time to be accepted."

Sir Alexander Macara, a former BMA chairman, had urged the hundreds of doctors at the conference to back the motion and to stamp out exposure to "wretched" tobacco smoke.

"The government is scared stiff of being accused of running a nanny state. Lets get them off the hook," he said.

Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA's board of science, had also backed a ban.

"We would strongly support it," he told the conference.

A Labour MP won backing in the House of Commons in April to introduce a bill to ban smoking in cafes and restaurants.

Gareth Thomas's Smoking (Restaurants) Bill will prevent people from lighting up in any premises that sells food.

The Bill will be considered again by MPs in July. The Welsh and Scottish assemblies are also considering proposals to ban smoking in restaurants and pubs.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "While we agree that completely smoke free public places are the ideal, we do not think a universal ban on smoking in all public places is justified while we can make fast and substantial progress in partnership with industry and on a voluntary basis."

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

A recent study suggested passive smoking at work kills three people every day.

The study found that around 900 office workers, 165 bar workers and 145 manufacturing workers die each year as a direct result of breathing in other people's tobacco smoke at work.

It also found that there are three times as many deaths a year from passive smoking at work as there are from workplace injuries.

Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of the charity Action on Addiction, welcomed the BMA vote.

She 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.

"More young people are taking up smoking than ever before. Around 450 school children take up smoking every day. We hope that a ban would make smoking an unacceptable social activity and help discourage people from starting to smoke."

Smoking ban passes first test
14 Apr 03  |  Politics

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