Official survey shows public want action on passive smoking: government out of step and dithering

Monday 24 September 2001

ASH release

Immediate 24 September 2001


Official survey shows public want action on passive smoking: government out of step and dithering


New figures from the Office for National Statistics [1] show rising concern about passive smoking and over 80% of adults wanting restrictions on smoking at work, in public places and restaurants.  A majority now favour restrictions in pubs.


Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:


“The new statistics show overwhelming and hardening public concern about passive smoking and a desire to see something done about it.”


“The survey shows a basic sense of British fair play – smokers and non-smokers alike just do not think it is right to make people breathe someone else’s second hand smoke if it can be avoided.


ASH complained that the government was now delaying and trying to sink its own passive smoking policy.   “They’ve kicked their own passive smoking policy into the long grass” said Bates.  “It looks like death by consultation.”


“The government ought to act on its own statistics and put people’s sense of fair play and concern for health first.  They used to be so tuned to public opinion, but it looks like they are now driven by the self-serving deregulation agenda of the tobacco industry and hospitality trade associations.



[1] Office for National Statistics today publishes “Smoking related behaviour and attitudes” – covering Britain.  Press release at:

Full report at:


ASH resources on passive smoking:

  • <ahref=”http:”” html=”” workplace.html”=””>Workplace
  • <ahref=”http:”” html=”” public.html”=””>Public places
  • <ahref=”http:”” html=”” passive.html”=””>Science


Contact: Clive Bates 020 77395902 (work).   077 6879 1237 (mobile) 

(ISDN available)

Extracts from the summary:

Support for smoking restrictions in public places has been increasing according to a survey report published today by National Statistics. Since 1996, the percentage in favour of restrictions at work rose from 81 per cent to 86 per cent in 2000, in restaurants, from 85 per cent to 88 per cent, in pubs, from 48 per cent to 53 per cent, and in other public places from 82 per cent to 86 per cent.


Seventy-one per cent of current smokers said they would like to give up smoking – this was not significantly different to the 1999 figure (72 per cent).


Over three-quarters (78 percent) of current smokers had tried to give up smoking in the past, and a half (50 per cent) had made a serious attempt in the past five years. A fifth (20 percent) of ex-smokers had given up within the past five years.


People had a high level of knowledge about the effect of passive smoking. Ninety per cent of respondents thought that a child’s risk of getting chest infections was increased by passive smoking and over 80 per cent thought that passive smoking would increase a non-smoking adult’s risk of lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma. The percentages were similar to those found in 1999.


Over four fifths agreed that there should be restrictions on smoking at work (86 per cent), in restaurants (88 per cent) and in other public places such as banks and post offices (86 percent). A smaller percentage of respondents, 53 per cent, thought that smoking should be restricted in pubs.


Forty-five per cent considered whether or not a place has a non-smoking area as an important factor when deciding where to go for a meal.


Twenty-two per cent said they would take account of whether a place has a non-smoking area when selecting a place to go for a drink. This was a small but statistically significant increase from 1999 (18 per cent).