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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
UK 'to drive' anti-smoking push
Man smoking cigarette
Smoking causes more than 100,000 deaths in the UK each year
The government will become a driving force in helping smokers all over the world to quit, it has pledged.

Public health minister Caroline Flint has outlined plans to spotlight the "significant influence" of smoking on health during its EU presidency.

Speaking at the UK launch of World No Tobacco Day, she pledged support for an international tobacco control treaty.

But Cancer Research UK complains the UK has failed to take a "strong lead" in banning smoking in public places.

Stopping smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places is the most effective action... to halt the damage wreaked by second hand smoke
Caroline Flint, public health minister

Ms Flint said the UK would urge nations to sign up to the Convention for Tobacco Control - the first international public health treaty.

World No Tobacco Day, launched by the World Health Organization, is focusing on the role health workers play in getting the message across and setting an example.

Cancer Research UK's chief executive Professor Alex Markham said: "Stopping smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places is the most effective single piece of action countries can take to halt the damage wreaked by second hand smoke."

Current government proposals to end smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places in England and Wales by 2008 - with exemptions for pubs that don't serve 'prepared' food - would leave thousands of pub workers unprotected, said the charity.

Smuggling industry

But Ms Flint told health professionals at the London launch: "It is important to remember that smoking is banned throughout, or limited in certain areas, in almost 90% of workplaces so we are not starting at zero."

Areas targeted as part of government plans to cut smoking across social groups included regulating tobacco products and controlling promotion and advertising of products, she said.

The thriving cigarette smuggling industry in Britain made tobacco supply another target, she added.

And reviewing picture warnings on products would ensure that people would not become "numb to the same message time and time again", she said.

Comprehensive ban

On Wednesday, Sweden will implement smoke free legislation, joining Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Malta and Bhutan.

And Scotland is set to introduce a comprehensive smoking ban in public places without the exemptions planned for England.

Smokers in Irish pub
A comprehensive smoking ban has been introduced in Ireland

Prof Markham said: "The experience of countries that have gone smoke free show that legislation works best when it contains as few exemptions as possible."

But earlier, Ms Flint told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the government had to balance the need for tough legislation with smokers' rights to "make a choice about their own health".

Ms Flint said there had been an increase of 63% in the number of people successfully stopping smoking via NHS services between 2003 and 2004.

More than a quarter of a million people had given up with the help of the NHS in the past year, she added.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was hoped the introduction of the services to supermarkets and pubs in some areas would be extended to other parts of the country.

Why record numbers of people are quitting smoking

08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes
Smoking ban law given green light
28 Apr 05 |  Scotland


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