1,000 Londoners die from passive smoking – GLA calls for workplace code (ACoP)

Wednesday 10 April 2002

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 10th April 2002
GLA backs workplace passive smoking code
The Greater London Assembly has endorsed a package of measures to reduce passive smoking in the capital [1].  The GLA took extensive evidence from ASH [2] arguing that passive smoking amounts to a serious health hazard and that much could be done to reduce the impact for little or no cost.   Clive Bates, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

There is a lot that can be done between a total smoking ban and just leaving things as they are.  What the report shows is that ‘do-nothing’ is no longer an option.

We want to see a steady move to the smoke free environments that most people actually want. For a restaurant, the option to go smoke-free is entirely realistic, and pubs should move to having smoke-free areas and banning smoking at the bar to reduce the impact on bar-staff.

The GLA supports of an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) on passive smoking at work.  This was proposed by the government in its December 1998 tobacco White Paper and endorsed by the Health and Safety Commission in September 2000 – but ‘consultation’ is still dragging on – now into its 4th year.

The ACoP would provide employees with the unambiguous right to expect their employer to do everything reasonably practicable to reduce or eliminate exposure to passive smoking at work.  However, it has been resisted by elements of the hospitality industry – backed by the tobacco lobby – that claim it will impose excessive costs.   Clive Bates, commented:

The voice of London adds real weight to the case for more urgency in tackling passive smoking. For all those waiters and bar staff, this could be significant step in improving their working conditions.  Many people think smoking policies are for customers, but probably employees are probably more important as they are in there longer and have less choice.

The science is absolutely clear – people do die from passive smoking and it is a serious environmental hazard. Our estimate is that 1,000 Londoners die each year from heart disease caused by passive smoking.

ASH attacked the attempts of the tobacco industry to muddy the water over passive smoking science and for inflating the impact of providing smoke-free areas.  We have made a critique of the numerous mistakes, speculations and outright deceptions in one tobacco industry submission in an attempt to set the record straight [3]

The tobacco industry’s argument that smoking is a matter of personal choice falls to pieces if other people are harmed – so they have resorted to decades of disinformation in an attempt to generate controversy where there really is scientific agreement that they don’t like.

Non-smokers already resent having to breathe other people’s smoke if they want to go out and socialise in Britain.  It is always the non-smoker that is expected to be tolerant, but once they start to expect and demand smoke-free air, then restaurants and pubs will have to follow.


Notes and links:

[1] GLA scrutiny report (published 10 April) – Smoking in Public Places. (this information appears to be no longer available online)

[2] ASH submission to the GLA – the case for controlling passive smoking in public places (pdf) + [other submissions]

[3] FOREST submission to the GLA – Annotated critique by ASH (pdf)


Contact: Clive Bates 020 7739 5902 (w) 077 6879 1237 (m) ISDN available