Lords economic report is grossly misleading on secondhand smoke risk.

Wednesday 07 June 2006

ASH news release: Wednesday 7th June 2006

A report published today by the Lords Economic Committee on threats to personal liberty and the management of risk includes grossly misleading statements about the health risks of secondhand smoke. [1]  The authors imply that the risks to health from breathing other people’s tobacco smoke are minimal and do not justify a ban on smoking in public places.  They also assert that passive smoking in the home is a greater problem and that action to ban smoking in the workplace is therefore not justified.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“This report is misleading on several counts.  Firstly, the evidence of the harmful nature of secondhand smoke is overwhelming.  The Government’s own Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health has twice reviewed the evidence and found secondhand smoke to be a cause of lung cancer and heart disease. [2]

Secondly, the aims of the legislation are crystal clear: to improve public health by minimising people’s exposure to a major carcinogen.

“Thirdly, the fact that more people may be exposed to smoke in the home than in public places does not mean that no action should be taken to protect people from exposure to smoke in the workplace and public places.  Breathing other people’s smoke in the workplace is estimated to cause around 600 premature deaths a year – around three times the number of deaths each year caused by industrial accidents.. [3]  Furthermore the evidence is that legislation to control smoke in workplaces helps to reduce smoking in the home. [4]

Ms Arnott added:

“Clearly it is inappropriate to try to use the law to control smoking in the home.  But it IS an appropriate and proportionate response to use legal measures to protect people from a toxic pollutant in public places and the workplace.

“We urge peers to disregard the distortions and perverse claims made in this report when debating the smoke free measures of the Health Bill at Report Stage.”


Notes and links:

[1]  Government Policy on the Management of Risk.  House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, 5th Report of 2005/06, HL Paper 183-I, ISBN 010 400868 7

[2]  Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) Secondhand smoke: Review of the evidence since 1998.  Department   of Health, 2004.

[3]  Jamrozik, K. Estimate of Deaths Among Adults in the United Kingdom Attributable to Passive Smoking: BMJ/2004/227587

[4] Going smoke-free. The medical case for clean air in the home, at work and in public places.  Royal College of Physicians.  July 2005