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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Doctors attack 'smoke ban myths'
Image of a smoke-filled bar
No ban is an infringement of a non smoker's right, doctors say
Opponents of a smoking ban are "peddling myths" to prevent its introduction, doctors say.

The British Medical Association has published a report which it says proves why a ban would work.

It counters claims a ban would infringe choice, not have public backing, damage the economy, be unenforceable and was not based on medical evidence.

But pro-smoking groups and the industry maintained the risks of passive smoking were still not proven.

BMA chairman James Johnson said: "The medical profession is united in its call for a UK-wide ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces.

"The true cost of delaying legislation is not financial, it is human."

Smoke-free

Last autumn the government proposed a smoking ban in public places as part of its Public Health White Paper, but the plan exempted pubs where food is not served.

We must keep constantly in mind that the 'evidence' on passive smoking is based on nothing more substantial than estimates, guesswork, subjective recollections and even gossip
Lord Harris, president of Forest

The Tories have proposed introducing a voluntary code with the hospitality industry, except in places where children are allowed which should be smoke-free, while the Liberal Democrats are in favour of an outright ban.

The report, Behind the Smokescreen, said critics have claimed a ban would be an infringement of freedom, but under the current system non-smokers - 70% of the population - were denied the freedom to go about their lives in smoke-free environments.

It also said that, despite suggestions to the contrary, there was considerable evidence in favour of a ban.

And the paper argued that medical evidence showed that passive smoking was harmful, citing a World Health Organisation study which found inhaling other people's smoke increased the risk of lung cancer and heart disease.

Another allegation is that a smoking ban results in more smoking in the home, but this had not proved to be the case in Ireland following the introduction of its ban, the report said.

The doctors also said a smoking ban encourages people to give up the habit.

Argument

Finally, the report challenged the argument that a ban would cost thousands of jobs in the hospitality and brewery industries.

But Lord Harris, president of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said a ban would be understandable if there was incontrovertible scientific evidence of harm to others.

He added: "This is very far from the truth.

"The truth is that the dozens of studies conducted around the world over the past 25 years fail spectacularly to yield any reliably stable, uniform or statistically significant link between lifetime exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in non-smokers.

"We must keep constantly in mind that the 'evidence' on passive smoking is based on nothing more substantial than estimates, guesswork, subjective recollections and even gossip."

And Chris Ogden, director of trade and industry affairs at the Tobacco Manufacturer's Association, said there should be designated smoking areas to keep smokers and non-smokers separate.

And he said the research on passive smoking was "statistical, not medical".

Ian Wilmore, public affairs manager of anti-smoking group Ash, compared the right of a smoker to smoke in public to the right of a motorist to drive at 50mph in a residential area.

"It is a conflict of rights. The most overwhelming right lies with the non smoker."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BMA explains why it believes a ban is necessary



SEE ALSO:
Smoking curbs: The global picture
07 Feb 05 |  In Depth
Q&A: Passive smoking
18 Oct 04 |  Medical notes


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