No ‘British Bodge’ on secondhand smoke: Reid warned.
Monday 25 October 2004
|ASH MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Use – Monday 25th October 2004|
|Health Secretary John Reid has been warned by health campaigners not to try a “British bodge” on workplace smoking restrictions. The warning comes after Reid was reported to be resisting pressure from No10 for legislation ending smoking in the workplace, on the Irish model.
Instead, Dr Reid has said that he will adopt a “British way” in relation to policies on healthcare. He has stated that: “I will not transpose automatically what other countries have done to people in England. We have to find our own way of doing things.”
(www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/oct/19/immigrationpolicy.smoking). Meanwhile Dr Reid’s predecessor, Frank Dobson, has warned the UK government not to settle for a “pathetic compromise” on the issue. Speaking to a conference of global health experts in Edinburgh, Mr Dobson said he had been a supporter of a ban on smoking in public places for a long time. But he warned that “there is a danger we will come up with some stupid, pathetic compromise,” he said (news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=1235672004). Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has warned that any of the compromise solutions on offer will fail to protect people most at risk from workplace exposure to secondhand smoke, and will also fail to help the Government meet its ambitious targets to cut the number of smokers.
The Government has made a number of attempts to find a policy short of ending workplace smoking by law. But none are satisfactory.
The “Voluntary” Option
The Local Option
Data from Government surveys, calculated by ASH and checked by the Office of National Statistics, show that across Great Britain 2.2 million people still work in places where smoking is allowed throughout (8% of those in work), and 10.4 million work in places where smoking takes place in designated areas (38% of those in work). Professor Konrad Jamrozik, formerly of Imperial College London, has estimated for a conference of the Royal College of Physicians that 700 premature deaths are caused each year in the UK by exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace: the figure for bar workers is one a week. (www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news-media/press-releases/one-hospitality-worker-dies-every-week-passive-smoking).
The Department of Health’s own performance targets (2004 Spending Review PSAs) promise to “reduce adult smoking rates to 21% or less by 2010, with a reduction in prevalence among routine and manual groups to 26% or less.” The current prevalence rate for all adults is 26%. The Wanless Report to Government on public health, published in February 2004, stated that “a workplace smoking ban in England might reduce smoking prevalence by around 4 percentage points” (www.ash.org.uk/media-room/press-releases/wanless-report-gives-powerful-backing-to-case-for-smokefree-law).
Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH, comments:
“Dr Reid’s apparent reluctance to end smoking in the workplace is amazing. Here is a Health Secretary with an unprecedented political opportunity to take a major step forwards in public health. He has public opinion on his side. He has the backing of the Prime Minister. He has the support of most MPs. In short, he is standing in front of an open goal, with the keeper tied up in a corner, and with a big white arrow helpfully pointing in the right direction. And yet he seems determined to blast the ball miles over the bar.
He risks going down in history as the health minister who missed the chance to save thousands of lives and to help end the biggest cause of preventable death in the UK. And all because of some misguided notion about the ‘pleasures’ of the working class. None of the British bodges put forward so far have the remotest chance of success. Smokefree workplaces are a public health necessity. Let’s get on with it.”
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|Contact: Ian Willmore 020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (m) ISDN available|