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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 July 2005, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Public ban would cut home smoking
Smoking
Smoking is linked to premature death
A ban on smoking in enclosed public places is likely to reduce the amount of smoking at home, say doctors.

The Royal College of Physicians reviewed research into passive smoking, and the impact of banning smoking in public places.

It found that bans encourage smokers to cut down, or quit completely - rather than to smoke more at home.

The college report also concluded that making the UK smoke-free would benefit the economy by about 4bn a year.

There is an unanswerable moral case to protect all people from passive smoking at work
Royal College of Physicians

Financial benefits include reductions in NHS costs, greater productivity in industry and reduced insurance premiums.

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.

The RCP is calling on ministers to rethink this exemption, and introduce a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

It said passive smoking kills about 12,000 people in the UK a year, of which about 500 die as a result of exposure to second hand smoke at work - with hospitality and bar workers particularly at risk.

"There is an unanswerable moral case to protect all people from passive smoking at work," its report said.

"All employees have a right to work in a safe environment, and all employers have a duty to ensure that they do.

"Comprehensive smoke-free legislation, making all public places and workplaces completely smoke-free, without exception, is the only effective means of achieving this."

Popular

The report said smoking bans in other countries have proved popular, and attracted high levels of compliance.

The evidence doesn't come close to justifying a total ban on smoking in every public place
Simon Clark

A recent study of smokers in Ireland surveyed both before and after the implementation of smoke-free legislation in March 2004 found that there was a statistically significant increase in the percentage of smokers who banned smoking in their own homes after the law was introduced.

Research from Australia and the US which focused on parents who smoked found similar results.

Where smoke-free workplaces and enclosed public places were the norm, parents reported they were more likely to try to prevent smoking in the home.

Professor John Britton, chair of the college's Tobacco Advisory Group, said: "The evidence shows that if you make public places smoke-free a lot of people who smoke quit and a lot of people who continue to smoke stop smoking at home.

"You become used to the idea that smoking is not normal and you don't do it in front of other people."

Government response

A Department of Health spokeswoman said its research suggested the majority of people did not want a complete ban on smoking in pubs.

But she said it was particularly important that smokers got the message that their habit was harmful to children.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group FOREST, said: "The suggestion that people are dying in their thousands from passive smoking is a myth based on estimates, calculations and statistics which are based on very dubious research.

"The evidence doesn't come close to justifying a total ban on smoking in every public place.

"The best place for people to smoke is in a well-ventilated bar or restaurant.

"Banning smoking in all public places is bound to encourage more people to smoke in and around the home. Anyone who can't see that is living in cloud-cuckoo land."

Around 45% of British children in 1996 lived in a home where at least one person smoked.

A previous RCP report estimated that in 1992, 17,000 children a year under the age of five were admitted to hospital with illnesses resulting from passive smoking.




SEE ALSO:
Councils 'not tackling smoking'
05 Jul 05 |  Health
England smoke ban plans unveiled
20 Jun 05 |  UK Politics


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