Lords debate smokefree workplace bill

Friday 23 April 2004

Media Release from ASH

FOR IMMEDIATE USE: Wednesday 21st April 2004



A new Bill to stop smoking in the workplace and enclosed public places will have a Second Reading debate in the Lords this Friday (23rd April). The Tobacco (Public Places and Workplaces) Bill will be moved by Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Labour). It would end all smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, other than in tightly regulated smoking areas. The Bill comes after the workplace smoking was recently outlawed in Ireland, and after similar moves in New York, California, Norway and elsewhere.


ASH estimates that at least three million people in the UK are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at work. Secondhand smoke is a known workplace carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). It can also cause heart and lung disease and is the second most common trigger for asthma attacks at work. The British Medical Association has stated that at least 1,000 people in the UK die prematurely every year from the effects of secondhand smoke. Five million people in the UK have asthma, and the National Asthma Campaign states that one in five sufferers are often prevented from using parts of their workplace where people smoke because of cigarette fumes. Cigarette smoke is the second most common asthma trigger in the workplace.


Ending smoking in the workplace is also known to be an effective way of persuading more smokers to quit. The Wanless Report on public health (“Securing Health for the Whole Population”), published by the Government in February, stated that the “voluntary approach to smoking in the workplace has had limited success”. “A number of other countries have now implemented a workplace smoking ban via legislation. Some of this experience has been shown to be successful in reducing the prevalence of smoking. Public support for smoking restrictions has also been found, in surveys, to be high…” (Para 4.21). “Some studies estimate that a workplace smoking ban in England might reduce smoking prevalence by around 4 percentage points – equivalent to a reduction from the present 27 per cent prevalence rate to 23 per cent if a comprehensive workplace ban were introduced in this country.” (Box 4.2)


Lord Faulkner comments:

“My Bill is a simple measure to tackle one of the biggest health and safety hazards at work, and help solve the biggest public health problem facing the country. I hope the Government will give my Bill a fair wind in the Lords, and adopt it once it reaches the Commons. The voluntary approach to smoking at work has clearly failed. It is unacceptable that so many employees in the hospitality trades, in factories and in small employers’ premises are still exposed to this wholly unnecessary risk.” 


ASH Director Deborah Arnott adds:

“We warmly welcome Lord Faulkner’s Bill. It would be a major step toward ending the health hazard from secondhand smoke, and it would help encourage many smokers to quit. We strongly urge the Government to give the Bill its backing, and to take it up when it reaches the Commons. That is how the tobacco advertising and sponsorship ban was eventually achieved. This Bill would be another big step towards cutting the terrible toll of death and disease that smoking still causes in our country.” 


CONTACT:          Lord Faulkner of Worcester          020 7219 8503  

                                 Ian Willmore (ASH)                        020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (m)


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