50th anniversary of government acknowledgment of smoking’s link with lung cancer. Now it’s time for action on secondhand smoke.

Thursday 12 February 2004

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Thursday  12th February 2004


50th Anniversary of Government acknowledgement that smoking linked to  lung cancer.   Now it’s time for action on secondhand smoke.

On the 50th anniversary of the UK government’s first cautious acceptance of the evidence that smoking was a cause of lung cancer [1],  ASH says that it’s now time for the present government to act on the evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.


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


“Over the past fifty years,  government response to new evidence of the harmful effects of smoking has been too little, too late.  It took almost fifty years for a British government to introduce a comprehensive tobacco control policy. [2]  Whilst this has helped to further reduce smoking rates, the government is still not doing enough to tackle the health impacts of secondhand smoke which seriously impairs the health of millions of Britons.


“Attitudes to smoking have changed significantly since the 1950s when smoking was considered  to be socially acceptable.  Now, over 80% of the population want to see smoking restricted in the workplace as the evidence of the dangers of breathing in other people’s smoke have become apparent.  But the government has failed to respond to the public’s views.


“Meanwhile countries such as Norway, Netherlands and Ireland are forging ahead with legislation to make non-smoking the norm in workplaces including public places. The UK government should follow suit and introduce legislation without delay in order to protect people from the entirely preventable illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.”



Notes and links:

[1]  On 12th February 1954 the then Health Minister Iain Macleod gave a press conference at which he reported on the findings of a government-approved scientific committee which had been investigating possible links between smoking and lung cancer.  The committee concluded that:


“It must be regarded as established that there is a relationship between smoking and cancer of the lung”

And that “It would appear that the risk increases with the amount smoked, particularly of cigarettes.”

Source: Parliamentary written answer, 15/2/54 and Ministry of Health press statement 12/2/54.


[2]  The ‘Smoking Kills’ White Paper published in December 1998 set out the government’s strategy to tackle tobacco. This included a ban on tobacco advertising, the establishment of services to help people stop smoking, a commitment to mass media education campaigns, and limited action to curb smoking in public places. However, this stopped short of a total ban.


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available