Secondhand smoke major workplace killer: new evidence

Monday 17 May 2004

Media Release from ASH – Embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 17th May 2004


Exposure to secondhand smoke is a major workplace killer, new evidence reveals today. Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College in London, will present the figures at a conference of the Royal College of Physicians, ‘Environmental Tobacco Smoke and the Hospitality Industry’.

Professor Jamrozik estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace:

  • causes 49 premature deaths each year among hospitality industry employees – or one a week
  • causes about 700 deaths each year across the UK.

For comparison, the total number of fatal accidents at work from all causes in the UK in 2002/3 was reported by the Health and Safety Executive as 226 (see New figures on workplace deaths and injuries show no significant change).

ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented:

“These are truly shocking figures. They show the utter bankruptcy of the hospitality trade bodies’ ‘voluntary approach’ – which leaves their current and former employees getting sick and dying at the rate of perhaps one a week. That’s a high price to pay for the inertia and feebleness of hospitality employers.

They also show the urgent need for a new law to end smoking in the workplace. It would both protect non-smokers and encourage smokers to quit. It has been shown to work well in New York, Ireland and elsewhere. The time for consultation has gone: the time for Government action has arrived.”

ASH and the UK’s largest personal injury and trade union law firm Thompsons recently published a new leaflet giving advice on possible legal action for compensation to employees whose health may have been affected by breathing in other people’s smoke at work (the leaflet can be downloaded as a pdf here).