Overwhelming backing for workplace smoking law

Friday 11 June 2004

ASH MEDIA RELEASE: Friday 11th June 2004

Major MORI Survey Shows Demand for End to Secondhand Smoke at Work
The most authoritative survey yet published about public attitudes on secondhand smoke shows overwhelming public support for a new law to end all smoking in the workplace – like those recently introduced in Ireland and Norway. The poll was conducted by MORI and commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health. More than four thousand people were interviewed between 15th April and 4th May [1]. The poll results come on the day the consultation period ends on the Government’s White Paper on public health, due to be published in July.

Four out of five (80%) of those polled support a law to ensure that all enclosed workplaces must be smokefree [2]. Of those who support smokefree laws, 64% want to see national legislation by Government, 21% prefer new powers for local Councils (as suggested in Labour’s Big Conversation document – http://www.bigconversation.org.uk/index.php?id=701)

Some have suggested that smokefree legislation is a “middle class” concern, even though exposure in the workplace is highest among manual and semi-skilled occupations. But the MORI poll reveals that support for a smokefree workplace law is strong across all social classes:

·        86% of social class AB support the proposal

·        83% of social class C1 support the proposal

·        79% of social class C2 support the proposal

·        72% of social class DE support the proposal. [3]

Even regular smokers support a new law: the poll shows support from 59% of daily smokers and 68% of infrequent smokers.  Supporters of all political parties are in favour: 81% of people intending to vote Labour support the law, 83% of people intending to vote Conservative and 85% of people intending to vote Liberal Democrat. Detailed figures on public support for laws to end smoking in particular types of workplace and public place are given in note 4 below.

The Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland has released results showing that the new smokefree workplace law has a 97% compliance rate – and that the number of non-smokers visiting pubs and bars has risen slightly, while the number of smokers visiting has remained the same.

ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented:

“This poll is the most authoritative and largest ever conducted on the proposal for a new smokefree law. It shows overwhelming public support for such a law, following its clear success in New York, Ireland and elsewhere. This support extends to smokers and non-smokers alike, and across every region and social class.

The poll sends the Government a clear message. The public wants action to end secondhand smoke at work. Secondhand smoke at work kills about 700 people every year and causes many thousands of asthma attacks and episodes of illness. A new law to protect employees and the public is long overdue. This is now the critical test for the Government’s planned White Paper on public health. Nothing less than a clear proposal for a new law will do if the Government is serious about protecting non-smokers and helping smokers to quit.”


[1] 4,060 interviews were conducted with residents in Great Britain between 15 years and older. Fieldwork was conducted on two waves of the MORI Omnibus – wave 14 (15th to 19th April) and wave 16 (29th April to 4th May).

[2] Asked Ireland, Canada, Norway and New Zealand have each passed laws to ensure all enclosed workplaces are smoke free.  How strongly, if at all, would you support or oppose a proposal to bring in a similar law in this country?”:

·         54% strongly support

·         25% tend to support

·         8% neither support nor oppose

·         7% tend to oppose

·         4% strongly oppose.

[3] Figures in this and following tables include those who “strongly support” and those who “tend to support” the proposition.

[4] Offered a list of public places where smoking might be ended by law:

  • 96% support ending smoking in NHS hospitals and clinics
  • 85% support ending smoking in enclosed shopping centres and shopping malls
  • 79% support ending smoking in restaurants
  • 78% support ending smoking in cafés
  • 62% support ending smoking in major railway stations
  • 49% support ending smoking in pubs and bars (35% opposed)
  • 47% support ending smoking in nightclubs (32% opposed)