Britain's Top Doctor Calls for Smoking Ban
By Richard Woodman
LONDON (Reuters Health) - Britain's chief medical officer on Thursday called for laws banning smoking in public places, saying such a move could be as effective in helping smokers quit as doubling taxes on cigarettes.
To the delight of anti-smoking groups, Sir Liam Donaldson said it was time to "get serious" about the dangers of passive smoking both at work and in public places such as bars and restaurants.
He told a news conference in London such action is what the tobacco industry feared most.
Hammering home his message, Donaldson listed some of the 150 known or suspected cancer-causing chemicals and poisons present in second-hand smoke -- including arsenic, rat poison and cyanide gas.
Donaldson said an estimated 3 million Britons become "passive smokers" when they go to work. Bar workers, waiters and waitresses are particularly vulnerable.
He criticized the "painfully slow" introduction of smoke-free policies in bars and restaurants. In the whole of England there are fewer than 20 smoke-free pubs.
Studies show that the fears of people in the hospitality industry that smoking bans would hit business are unfounded.
In the workplace some progress has been made in introducing smoke-free policies, but half of the nation's workforce remains unprotected.
A ban on smoking at work would cut the proportion of Britons smoking from 27 percent to 23 percent. "Such a big gain could only be achieved through tax increases if the cost of cigarettes were doubled," he said.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "We are delighted to hear the call on government to tackle smoking in public places, including workplaces.
"We know that Big Tobacco has long feared action on second hand smoke. The industry has continually attempted to stall the process of implementing smoking bans on a global scale by muddying the waters about the dangers of second hand smoke.
Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said: "The government must listen to the Chief Medical Officer and move to ban smoking in public places now.
"Smoke-free laws are needed to protect both the general public and employees. Ventilation and partial smoking bans are not effective in protecting people from the toxic and carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke. "