The public overwhelmingly backs a new law to end all smoking in the workplace, a new poll reveals today. The poll was conducted by polling firm BMRB and commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK [1].

The Government is currently proposing to exempt pubs that do not serve prepared food and private membership clubs from the smokefree legislation included in the Health Improvement and Protection Bill, due to be laid before Parliament in November this year. Ministers have been under the mistaken impression that the public does not yet back an end to smoking in all pubs. But the BMRB poll – of a thousand people across England and Wales – shows that 73% of those polled support a law to ensure that all enclosed workplaces including all pubs and all restaurants must be smokefree [2].

The findings will add to growing pressure on the Government to drop the proposed exemptions from the legislation, once the consultation period ends on September 5. Thousands of responses to the Government’s consultation document have already been received – and the overwhelming majority are believed to back comprehensive legislation without the proposed exemptions.

The poll also shows that 85 per cent of people would visit bars and pubs as often – or even more often – if they were smokefree by law.

ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented “This poll shows overwhelming public support for a comprehensive smokefree law, following its clear success in Ireland, New York and elsewhere. The idea that the public will not back an end to smoking in pubs and bars – where employees and customers are at most risk from secondhand smoke – is simply not true. If anything, there is greater support for comprehensive legislation in this country now than there was before it was introduced in Ireland.

This poll sends the Government a clear message. The public wants action to end secondhand smoke at work. It now kills more than 600 people at work every year – three times the number of deaths from industrial accidents. And it causes many thousands of asthma attacks and episodes of illness. The pointless and damaging exemptions for pubs and clubs must be dropped from the final Bill. Smokefree legislation must be comprehensive if it is to be successful.”

Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, Professor Alex Markham, commented “This survey dispels a number of myths perpetrated by the tobacco industry to confuse the debate on smokefree workplaces. It shows that public support for making all workplaces smokefree – including all pubs and all restaurants – is very high.

“It also gives reassurance to anyone worried about the impact going smokefree on the hospitality trade. The vast majority of people say they would still visit pubs if they were smokefree. This is supported by the experiences of places such as Ireland and New York, where there is clear evidence that going smokefree does not damage profits.”


For media enquiries please contact Ian Willmore at ASH on 020 7739 5902 or 07887 641344 or Paul Thorne at Cancer Research UK on 020 7061 8352 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


[1] 996 interviews were conducted by telephone with residents in Great Britain aged 16 years and over. Fieldwork were conducted on one wave of the BMRB Access Omnibus – (15-17 July 2005).

[2] Key findings from the poll include:

Q5 The Government has announced plans to make most public places smokefree from 2008. Would you support a proposal to make ALL workplaces – including all pubs and all restaurants smokefree?

All Non smokers Smokers
% % %
Yes 73 82 46
No 24 14 52
Don’t know 3 3 3

Q4 If the indoor premises of pubs and bars were smokefree by law, do you think you would you use them more often, less often or about the same?

All Non smokers Smokers
% % %
More often 28 36 4
It would make no difference 57 59 52
Less often 12 2 42
Don’t know 2 2 2

Smokers made up 25% of the survey sample

Full poll results available from ASH.