Canadian waitress wins compensation after passive smoke gives her terminal lung cancer: ASH says don’t abandon UK workers to same fate.

Friday 11 October 2002

ASH news release:  11 October 2002   For immediate release
In a landmark decision that could open the floodgates for claims in Canada, a 57-year-old former waitress has been awarded workers compensation after developing terminal lung cancer caused by decades of exposure to passive smoke. [1]

Heather Crowe, who had never smoked, worked in a number of bars, restaurants and hotels for 40 years and has now been told she has less than a year to live.

Health officials in Canada are calling it a triumph in their bid to see all employees protected from passive smoke at work. Yet in the UK, Government seems determined to shelve proposals that would do much to prevent bar workers in this country from developing serious illness.

Commenting on the award, Marsha Williams of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH said:

“ This is a shocking reminder of just what exposure to passive smoke can do to you. It would be no surprise at all if thousands of bar workers in this country are left concerned, or downright scared by this news.

“ Employers in this country have been allowed to shirk their responsibilities to protect staff from passive smoke for far to long.”

Only last week ASH revealed that despite robust evidence showing passive smoke to be a killer, some three million employees still work in premises where smoking is allowed throughout.[2]

It is over two years since the Health and Safety Commission – Government’s health and safety advisers – told Ministers to implement an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which outlined steps all employers should take to reduce staff exposure to passive smoke. The Code clarifies existing law which places a duty on employers to provide a safe working environment and is compulsory in the sense that any breach of it would almost automatically lead to a conviction under health and safety law. [3]

Pointing the finger at hospitality trade leaders for obstructing the very measures that could avoid a Heather Crowe case in this country, Ms Williams urged pub, bar and restaurant workers to do more to fight for their rights.

“ At the moment many employers get away with showing complete disregard for their staff. We need those people most exposed to passive smoke to shout for their rights and lobby their trade leaders to stop opposing the ACoP. That is the only way to ensure they get the long overdue legal protection they deserve, “ she said.


Notes and links:

[1]        Canadian news articles:

– Waitress compensated for smoke exposure – Ottawa Citizen

– Ailing ex-waitress wins second-hand smoke case – Globe & Mail

– Ruling likely to impact nationwide – Ottawa Sun

[2]        BMRB Access Omnibus of 2,028 adults aged over 15. Fieldwork conducted between 12 and 18 September 2002.

[3]        The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) is designed to clarify how the existing Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 relates to passive smoking. Government committed to looking into the issue as part of its Smoking Kills White Paper in December 1998


Following an extensive public consultation the draft ACoP was formally recommended to Ministers by the Health and Safety Commission on 5 October 2000, a month after the Commission first announced that in its opinion the ACoP was the best method Government should employ to tackle passive smoking at work