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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Councils 'not tackling smoking'
Smoking
Smoking is linked to premature death
Many councils are failing to take positive action to cut smoking, a study has found.

The newly-launched Smokefree Action coalition surveyed the smoking policies of every council in England and Wales.

It found some councils - such as Liverpool, Manchester, Poole and Sheffield - were pushing for smokefree work places and enclosed public areas.

But most were still doing little more than banning smoking in their own offices.

Too many councils are still doing little or nothing to promote smoke freedom
Deborah Arnott

Only a quarter of all councils - 99 out of 401 - were actively working with NHS Primary Care Trusts and others to promote smokefree public places.

In London, just two out of 33 councils were taking action.

Smokefree Action said the survey showed the urgent need for legislation to end smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places.

It said such a ban would cut smoking rates from about one in four adults to one in five.

The government is currently carrying out a consultation on plans to ban smoking in the majority of public places by the end of 2008 - but it is planned to exempt pubs not preparing and serving food.

Deaths

Smoking is the main cause of preventable death in the UK - killing more than 100,000 people a year.

Opinion polls show that the majority of people in Britain want a choice of smoking and no-smoking rooms in pubs
Simon Clark

Inhaling other people's smoke in the workplace has been estimated to cause 600 premature deaths a year, but these figures are disputed by the pro-smoking lobby.

Deborah Arnott, of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: "Some councils have led the way to encourage smokefree workplaces and public places in their area, and to help cut the terrible toll of death and disease caused by smoking.

"But too many councils are still doing little or nothing to promote smoke freedom.

"Too many still do not realize the impact that smoking has on life expectancy and health inequalities in their areas."

David Rogers, chairman of the Well-Being Board of the Local Government Association, said the roll of councils was limited until they were given new enforcement powers by the government.

New campaign

Smokefree Action has been launched by a coalition of groups including Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, Cancer Research UK, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Royal College of Physicians.

It is campaigning for a comprehensive smokefree law covering all workplaces and enclosed public places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Such a law is already in place in Ireland and was last week approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "All workers have a right to work in a smokefree environment, and a comprehensive ban on smoking in enclosed public places - without exemptions - is the only practical way we can give them the protection they deserve."

No support

However, Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group FOREST, described the new coalition as "the usual rag-bag collection of professional anti-smokers re-packaged and re-branded".

He said: "Opinion polls show that the majority of people in Britain want a choice of smoking and no-smoking rooms in pubs, clubs and bars with better ventilation to improve air quality.

"To say that the evidence supporting smokefree workplaces is now so strong that there is no room left for scientific debate is breathtakingly arrogant and completely untrue.

"There is no conclusive evidence that passive smoking is a cause of ill health."




SEE ALSO:
England smoke ban plans unveiled
20 Jun 05 |  UK Politics
Smoking ban law approved by MSPs
30 Jun 05 |  Scotland


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