Fifth Anniversary of the public places smokefree law

Thursday 28 June 2012

The fifth anniversary of the smokefree law in England falls on Sunday 1 July. [1]
The ban on smoking in public places remains popular [2] and has resulted in significant health benefits. For example, in the 12 months following implementation of the law in England there were 1,200 fewer emergency admissions to hospital for heart attack. [3] A systematic review of the evidence commissioned by the Government published last year concluded that smokefree laws are effective in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and that there was no evidence that the smokefree legislation had had any negative impact on the hospitality industry. [4]

However, despite the undoubted success of the law in protecting people in the workplace from
secondhand smoke, some people, particularly children, remain at risk from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke, particularly in the home and in cars. A recent national poll [5] revealed that:

• almost one in ten non-smoking adults are exposed to smoke in other people’s cars
• 2% of adults are exposed to smoke in work vehicles where smoking is against the law.
• 15% of smokers allow smoking in their car at any time, regardless of the presence of children

Not surprisingly, a large majority (79%) of non smokers do not allow smoking in their car at any time. There is also a good deal of support among the British public for the smokefree law to be extended to include cars. The same YouGov research found that:

• 80% believe smoking in cars with children should be banned
• 58% believe smoking in cars with any passenger should be banned
• 43% believe smoking should be banned in all cars (compared with 38% who disagree).
Although most people can now live and work without coming into contact with tobacco smoke, some sections of the population, particularly children, are still exposed to secondhand smoke especially in the home and in private vehicles. A private member’s bill to ban smoking in cars when children are present is due for its second reading on Friday 29th June. [6]

[1] Implementation of the smokefree provisions of the Health Act 2006 occurred at different times for the 3 countries covered by the law. Wales went smokefree on 2 April 2007 and Northern Ireland on 30 April, followed by England on 1 July 2007.

[2] ONS data showed that 81% of adults in Great Britain supported the law banning smoking in public places shortly after implementation. [Source: Smoking-related Behaviour and Attitudes, 2008/09. ONS]
A YouGov poll (see note 4 below) conducted earlier this year revealed that overall 78% of adults supported the law while only 12% opposed it.

[3] The most significant recorded health benefit resulting from smoking bans worldwide has been the fall in hospital admissions for heart attacks.
In England, the smokefree law resulted in a 2.4% reduction in the number of hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (heart attack), equivalent to 1,200 emergency admissions in the year following the smokefree law. [Source: Sims M, Maxwell R, Bauld L & Gilmore A. The short-term impact of smokefree legislation in England: a retrospective analysis on hospital admissions for myocardial infarction. BMJ 2010;340:2161]

In other countries, a meta-analysis of 11 studies in 10 locations found that the risk of heart attack decreased by 17% overall after implementation of smokefree laws. [Source: Meyers DG et al Cardiovascular effect of bans on smoking in public places. J Am Coll Cardiology 2009;54:1249-1255]

[4] Bauld L. Impact of smokefree legislation: evidence review, March 2011

[5] YouGov poll. Total sample size was 12,436 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th February to 16th March 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) in Great Britain.

[6] The Second Reading of Lord Ribeiro’s Bill to ban smoking in private vehicles when children are present is scheduled for Friday 29 June.