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Cancer chief laments government’s failure to back total smoking ban

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by Cancer Research UK | News

16 November 2004

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Responding to the Government’s failure to back a total smoking ban in public places in the White Paper on Public Health, Prof Alex Markham, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said today: “This is a huge missed opportunity. The Government has failed in its fundamental duty to protect our citizens’ health and safety by opting out of a total ban on smoking in public places.

“It seems bizarre that the Government has accepted the wisdom of a ban but is then happy to deny the benefits of it to people who work in private clubs and pubs where food is not served.

“It’s like having the legislation to fit all cars with seatbelts because we know seatbelts save lives and then stopping some passengers from wearing them.

“New research suggests that second-hand smoke in the workplace causes about 700 deaths each year across the UK – including the death of 50 hospitality workers annually. With evidence like this it is ridiculous to have a ban in Scotland and not one in England and Wales.

“We know that more than two-thirds of Britain’s smokers want to quit. A total ban on smoking in bars and pubs would help them as it has in Ireland where 7,000 smokers have stopped since the Irish Government introduced its smoking ban six months ago. Compliance with the ban has not been a problem.

“By refusing to follow the examples of Scotland, Ireland and New York the government is further burdening the NHS as patients suffering not only from cancer but from other smoking related diseases continue to need prolonged and costly hospital treatment.”

Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at Stirling University, condemned the idea that good ventilation in pubs that continued to allow smoking could protect bar staff from second-hand smoke.

He said: “Even a state of the art ventilation system, in perfect working order, cannot cope with a bar in which people are smoking because the toxins are being poured in from smoke as fast as they are removed. It’s like trying to empty a bath with the taps running.

“Not only that but ventilations systems may get rid of what we can see but they are much less effective in removing invisible but lethal gases.”

Fiona Castle, widow of show business personality Roy Castle who died as a result of passive smoking, said: “Scotland and Ireland have banned smoking in public places because it saves lives. Like Cancer Research UK I am appalled that non-smokers in England are to be denied that basic protection. Now there is indisputable scientific evidence that passive smoking kills, there can be no valid argument against a total ban in pubs, clubs and restaurants.

“At the time Roy started out playing the trumpet we didn’t know the dangers of passive smoking and he spent thousands of hours in clubs where the air was heavy with other people’s smoke. Then this man, who had never smoked himself, was diagnosed with lung cancer and I witnessed firsthand the awful damage second hand smoke had done to him.”