Half the workforce still exposed to smoke. New figures show workplace health divide.

Monday 24 April 2006

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01hrs Monday 24th April 2006


The need for new legislation to end all smoking at work to reduce health inequalities has been shown again today by new figures on workplace exposure to smoking released by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). The figures show that in 2004 more than ten million people across Great Britain still worked in places where smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises, and more than two million in places where smoking is allowed throughout the workplace [1].

The figures also show a clear workplace health divide. Workers in routine and manual occupations are more likely to be exposed to other people’s smoke than managerial and professional workers. 900,000 people in routine and manual occupations work in places where there are no restrictions on smoking at all compared to 400,000 managers and professional people.  6.1 million people in professional and managerial positions work in places where smoking is not permitted at all, compared to 3.9 million people working in routine and manual occupations.

It has been estimated that exposure to smoking in the workplace causes around 600 premature deaths a year, around three times the number of deaths each year from industrial injuries and accidents [2].

ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented:

“These figures show just how important the House of Commons’ historic vote to end workplace smoking really was. More than ten million people in Great Britain are still exposed to other people’s smoke at work – a major workplace health and safety hazard. Voluntary progress towards no-smoking workplaces has been too slow and haphazard. Smoking is a major cause of health inequalities – and exposure to secondhand smoke at work is no different. Workers in routine and manual occupations are much more likely to be breathing in other people’s smoke than those in managerial and professional occupations.

The Health Bill is now in the House of Lords, where a small group of unelected peers are still working to try to reverse the overwhelming decision taken on a free vote in the House of Commons. These figures show once again why they deserve to fail. We need a smokefree law and we need it as soon as possible.”

Notes and Links

[1] The figures are taken from the Labour Force Survey and ONS Omnibus surveys 2004, analysis by Department of Health statisticians for ASH. Note that the data relate to Great Britain in 2004 and therefore pre-date the ban on smoking in the workplace in Scotland. The table showing the full data can be viewed at: www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_290.pdf

For further information on smoking and health inequalities see www.ash.org.uk/current-policy-issues/health-inequalities

[2] Jamrozik, K. Estimate of Deaths Among Adults in the United Kingdom Attributable to Passive Smoking: BMJ/2004/227587  Link to abstract    Konrad Jamrozik MBBS DPhil FAFPHM MFPH ILTM is Professor of Evidence-Based Health Care, University of Queensland.


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m)

Ian Willmore 020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (m)

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