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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 07:24 GMT
Doctors call for NI smoking ban
Doctors have called for a smoking ban in enclosed public places
All workers in NI deserve the right to a smoke-free working environment, the British Medical Association has said.

As civil servants return to work in smoke-free buildings on Tuesday, doctors applauded the NI civil service decision to ban smoking in government departments.

But they said that all employees should enjoy the same health rights.

They urged NI Health Minister Angela Smith to implement a smoking ban similar to that in the Irish Republic.

BMA Northern Ireland council chairman Dr Brian Patterson said that the government should not delay any longer.

"For each two weeks we put off this decision, we allow yet another person to die. This is not acceptable and is morally wrong when it could easily be prevented," he said.

"Health Minister Angela Smith has recognised that there is incontrovertible evidence that passive smoking kills but still continues to delay in putting an end to this situation. We do not need further consultation. The time for action is now."

For a large proportion of the remainder of the workforce, there is still no respite from breathing in deadly tobacco smoke
Dr Peter Maguire

Dr Patterson said there was a "groundswell" of public opinion that smoking should be banned.

Dr Peter Maguire, deputy chairman of the BMA's Board of Science and an ardent campaigner for a ban on smoking in enclosed public places, said civil servants in Northern Ireland would now enjoy safer workplaces.

"This is great news for a section of Northern Ireland's workforce, but for a large proportion of the remainder, there is still no respite from breathing in deadly tobacco smoke," he said.

"These people are being forced to smoke tobacco through passive inhalation and only legislation will give them the opportunity to enjoy the same healthier environment that the minister for health will be enjoying now that 2005 has arrived."

Dr Maguire said if the government had "the courage to take the same radical step as the government in the Republic of Ireland did" then employees could have the opportunity to work in a safe and healthy environment.

The smoking ban in all Northern Ireland government departments came into effect on 1 January. The ban sees smoking facilities removed and staff forbidden to light up on site.

Prisons are exempt from the ban.

Since the end of March, smoking has been illegal in workplaces, including pubs and restaurants in the Republic of Ireland.

It was the first country in the world to introduce such a nationwide ban.

In 2004, it was revealed Northern Ireland could be the pilot area for a smoking ban in workplaces across the UK.

It is believed discussions have already taken place between ministers at Stormont and officials of the Department of Health in London.

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