Cost of dealing with passive smoking proves negligible: study suggests over-hyping by opponents

Tuesday 27 February 2001

Embargo: 00:01 Tues 27 February 2001

Impact of law on smoking at work and in restaurants found to be negligible despite doom-mongering and hype by opponents

The actual impact of a law regulating smoking inbusinesses and restaurants in Quebec was both negligible and far lower than theperceived or expected impact suggesting tobacco and hospitality industryclaims that regulations will have serious impacts should be discounted.  The study [1] offers important lessons forthe UK, where government officials and certain Ministers are currently blockingsimilar measures on account of misplaced concerns about the costs tobusiness.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

Some claim that having a smoke-free environment is such a serious threat that workers will leave, customers will be lost, and that businesses will close under the weight of huge costs. This obviously absurd and self-serving claim is destroyed by the new findings, which show that actual costs are minimal but expected costs are hugely hyped by those wanting to block progress.

Lessons for the UK government

ASH pointed out that a the proposed ‘Approved Code ofPractice’ (ACOP) on passive smoking at work a quasi-legal guide to how the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act should apply to passive smoking. The policyis still mired Whitehall infighting.  The formal consultation overwhelmingly backed the proposal, but Ministers ignored this.

There is a perfectly good proposal on the table to deal with passive smoking in the workplace, but the government is too indecisive. This is the single most important plank of their tobacco policy and they seem to be incapable of carrying it through.

While Ministers prevaricate in the name of more cosy relations with the hospitality trade, they are ignoring the well-being of 3 million workers often in the most deprived areas and poorly paid jobs. These are the many that Labour once said it was for, but now it seems to be catering for the few that run the pub trade

Over 3 million people are frequently on continuouslyexposed to passive smoking at work.  The new ACOP would require employers to do what was reasonable and practicable toreduce or eliminate on the job exposure to tobacco smoke. More information onthe ACOP and workplace smoking issues may be found at ASH’s workplace web site

Around 150 MPs from across the Commons have signed an justifying the policy and calling for the introduction of the ACOP.  The text is .

[1] Cremieux P-Y,Ouellette P. Actual and perceived impact of tobacco regulation on restaurantsand firms Tobacco Control 2001;10:33-37


Karl Brookes: 020 77395902

Text of Smoking in theWorkplace

Kevin Barron MP

That this House believes that all employees deserve protection from the harmful effects of passive smoking while they are at work; notes the recent survey of the Office for National Statistics showing that 89 per cent. of the public favour restrictions on smoking at work; accepts that three million non-smokers are frequently or continuously exposed to second hand smoke at work; agrees that passive smoking damages the health and welfare of non-smokers; accepts the conclusion of the Government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health that passive smoking is a cause of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses; believes that a voluntary approach has worked in many situations but has failed in many others and will continue to fail without government action; further believes that it is not unreasonable or impractical to require all employers to do what is reasonably practicable to reduce or eliminate passive smoking exposure; and calls on the Government to accept the recommendation of the Health and Safety Commission to publish formal guidance on how existing health and safety legislation applies to passive smoking at work by introducing the Approved Code of Practice, with strictly limited transitional arrangements for the hospitality trade.