Fears over passive smoking danger in the spotlight again



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Wednesday 19 June 2002

ASH news release: <spanstyle=”mso-spacerun: spanstyle=”” mso-spacerun:”=””>19 June 2002 For immediate release

On the same day that fresh scientific evidence about the health risks from passive smoking is released, new national statistics reveal more people in the UK want smoking to be restricted in workplaces, pubs, restaurants and public places.

A new study [1] from the world’s leading experts on cancer has categorically shown second-hand smoke is carcinogenic to humans, proving that non-smokers are exposed to the same cancer-causing agents as those who actually smoke.

Commenting on the findings, Marsha Williams of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

“Passive smoking is quite clearly more than just the nuisance many of the world’s tobacco companies would have us believe. People are harmed and killed by it and it is time industry, government and smokers themselves woke up to this fact.

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“There is no way that people should be working bathed in toxins and pollutants that scientists have today shown beyond all doubt cause cancer. Passive smoke is a workplace carcinogen and the question to the authorities is what are they going to do about it?

“Surely government must now act to protect those employees who have to decide whether to battle on in a smoky workplace, risking their health day-in, day-out, or chance their luck finding a new job somewhere else,” said Ms Williams.

ASH has been calling on government to implement an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which would effectively eliminate smoking from the vast majority of workplaces and even bring restrictions into pubs, restaurants and other public places. But thus far, despite its own health and safety advisors recommending the ACoP be brought in, government has failed to act. [3]

Yet this flies in the face of public opinion. New figures released today by the Office for National Statistics showed more and more people are in favour of smoking restrictions at work. In 1996 81% of people favoured restrictions at work yet these latest figures show that number has risen to 86%. [4]

The IARC study was launched under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, reflecting the fact that passive smoking is a massive global killer with women and children perhaps being the hardest hit, not surprising given that in the UK 42% of children live in a smoking household. [5]

It was only three years ago that the WHO claimed that almost half the world’s children (700 million) are exposed to tobacco smoke by the 1.2 billion adults that smoke. [6] And with 80% of those adults being men, it is often women who are suffering the most from environmental tobacco smoke. [7]

In the light of the IARC study, Ms Williams suggested the Autumn meeting of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) now holds even greater importance. [8]

“This research should give new impetus to the WHO meetings. When delegates meet in October they should be looking to strengthen the provisions on passive smoking “ she   concluded.

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Notes and links:

A summary of the evidence about the health risks of passive smoking can be found on the ASH website at www.ash.org.uk/?passive. See also the influential SCOTH report commissioned by the UK government in March 1998

[1] IARC Monographs programme declares second-hand smoke carcinogenic to humans. 19.6.02. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Part of the World Health Organisation, it works to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control.

[2] Based on a survey of smoking conditions by MORI Research, March 1999

[3] The Approved Code of Practice is designed to clarify existing Health and Safety legislation as it relates to passive smoking. The draft ACoP was recommended by the Health and Safety Commission in September 2000.

[4] Smoking related behaviour and attitudes. ONS, 19.6.02.

[5] General Household Survey, 1998, ONS, 1999.

[6] International Consultation on Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) and Child Health. WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO/NCD/TFI/99.10. 1999 [View pdf]

[7] January 2002 World Health Organisation report. Tobacco: Global Trends. Tobacco prevalence and consumption worldwide.

[8] The FCTC is currently being developed by the 191 member states of the World Health Assembly, and could be signed by governments in 2003, or perhaps even earlier. If successfully negotiated, the FCTC would be the world’s first global agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control. www.fctc.org

 

Contact: Marsha Williams 020 7739 5902 <spanstyle=”mso-spacerun: isdn=”” spanstyle=”” mso-spacerun:”=””>