An alarming seven out of ten British children are exposed to other people’s smoke when they’re taken to pubs, cafes or restaurants, according to a survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK.
The poll was conducted to find out the extent to which British children are having their health put at risk through passive smoking. The worrying results show that 91 per cent of children come into contact with tobacco smoke.
Over half of the children surveyed said they were subject to tobacco smoke within the home – either their own home, their friend’s or a relative’s. Thirty-four per cent were specifically exposed to tobacco smoke in their own home.
The study of 2,469 11-16 year old school children shows that most children are subject to passive smoking in places that they regularly go to. Forty-eight per cent are exposed to smoke while ‘hanging out’ in places like shopping centres.
Recent research from the US1 which was funded in part by the tobacco industry suggested environmental smoke does not cause cancer. However Cancer Research UK scientists highlight that the research was just one study compared to many that have established a link. The methods used in the study can also be criticised.
Jean King, Director of Tobacco Control for Cancer Research UK, says: “Passive smoking is a serious risk to health. It is not acceptable that children are being exposed to this level of environmental tobacco smoke. A ban on smoking in public places would significantly reduce children’s exposure as well as employees in smoky work environments.
“Across age groups there are a lot of children visiting pubs, cafes and restaurants. This is yet another reason to make these places smoke free. In the US four states have now banned smoking in most public spaces, including bars and restaurants. Smoke free public places must become the norm, not the exception.”
There is mounting pressure on the tobacco industry. Saturday May 31, 2003, is World No Tobacco Day. It is the only annual global event that highlights the impact of tobacco use on public health.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas has introduced a Private Members Bill that would prevent people lighting up in premises that sell food. The Smoking (Restaurants) Bill is due for its second reading in the House of Commons on July 11, but is unlikely to get through due to pressures on Parliamentary time. However Cancer Research UK believes it is an important step in the right direction.
Last week the World Health Organisation approved its global anti-smoking treaty – The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The treaty’s measures include a global tobacco advertising and sponsorship ban, increased tobacco taxes and new guidelines on tobacco health warnings. It also highlights the importance of achieving smoke-free public places.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Cancer Information says: “The tobacco industry is under siege. Globally, government policy is pushing cigarettes out of public spaces and the public is also becoming aware of the damage tobacco can do. An important part of this is to ensure that children are not exposed to tobacco smoke or the view that smoking is a ‘cool’ adult thing to do.”
- British Medical Journal326 7398
The four US states that have introduced public smoking bans in restaurants and bars are California, Delaware, New York and Connecticut. Other states have banned smoking in restaurants only. They include Maine, Vermont, Utah, and Florida.
The poll by MORI was conducted between January 15 and March 12, 2003 in England and Wales as part of their Schools Omnibus study. 100 schools took part and completed questionnaires were obtained from 2,469 children aged between 11 and 16. One class was randomly selected from each school and interviewing was carried out through self-completion questionnaires with the whole class in one period.