ASH congratulates Government for signing up to taking action on Secondhand Smoke

Friday 23 May 2003

ASH news release:  For immediate release 23 May 2003
ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) welcomes the news that the British Government is, with fellow EU member states, committed to being among the first to sign and ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) so that it can be brought into force as soon as possible. This legally binding treaty includes the need to “protect everyone from exposure to tobacco smoke” [1].

The treaty also specifically states that all Parties recognise that ‘scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability’ and goes on to say that each party shall adopt ‘effective measures’ to ‘provide protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport and indoor public places’.

Health Minister Alan Milburn has already confirmed that smoke-free laws in all workplaces are ‘ideal’, but also believes that the government can make ‘fast and substantial progress in partnership with the hospitality industry’.  However, research by ASH shows that the tobacco industry has a long-running campaign to discredit the science on secondhand smoke and oppose measures to ban smoking in the leisure sector[2]. It has worked with the hospitality industry to lobby for self-regulation in the form of the Public Places Charter which has proved to be ineffective [3]. There is now conclusive scientific evidence that the measures of protection included in the Charter, which advocates providing tobacco-free areas and installing ventilation to deal with secondhand tobacco smoke, do not provide effective protection for non-smokers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke[4].

Deborah Arnott, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

“The time for voluntary controls is past, they have been proven not to work. The requirement in the treaty for effective measures to provide protection from tobacco smoke commits the government to bring in legislation to control secondhand smoke in all workplaces.”

The treaty is a catalyst for more and more countries to introduce legislation requiring smoke-free workplaces. Ireland, New Zealand and Norway will all have legislation requiring smoke-free workplaces by mid 2004.  Developing countries are also taking action, for example Egypt has legislation banning smoking in enclosed places. Now is the time for the UK government to act.

Notes and links:

[1]   Full text of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control can be found at

[2] The tobacco industry, ETS and the hospitality trade, ASH, 2003 (pdf)

[3] The Public Places Charter is a voluntary code agreed between the hospitality industry and the government to increase facilities for non-smokers. However, to comply with the Charter, pubs and restaurants can still opt for smoking to be allowed throughout the premises. The Charter is backed by the AIR Initiative (Atmosphere Improves Results) which has received funding from the tobacco industry.

[4] ‘A Killer on the Loose’, An ASH special investigation into the threat of passive smoking to the UK workforce.




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