30/06/2004

Local doctors sign up to back smoking ban

Four-and-a-half thousand letters from doctors calling for a ban on smoking in public places will soon be delivered to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In the huge postbag sent to the BMA, doctors from all over the UK wrote of their experiences treating patients affected by second-hand smoke.

A sample of the letters was read to the 500 delegates attending the BMA's annual conference in Llandudno during a debate today, on Wednesday 30th June, calling for the banning of smoking in enclosed workplaces.

Leading the debate at the BMA conference, Dr Peter Maguire, Deputy Chairman of the BMA's Board of Science and a consultant anaesthetist at Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry, congratulated the Irish government for the leadership it showed by introducing the ban in the Republic of Ireland.

"The British government needs to have courage and follow the lead of Ireland, New York and Norway."

Dr Maguire said: "I live in Northern Ireland but I frequently travel to the Republic because that's where I can enjoy a beer in a smoke-free pub. I have seen that the ban on smoking in public places in Ireland has not adversely affected business. Indeed it's booming there. Smoke-free places mean life, not death."

In the UK around three million workers are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke and about 1.3 million workers are breathing in other people's tobacco smoke at least 75% of the time. Workers in lower socio-economic groups run the greatest risk of exposure.

The BMA had initially hoped that 1,000 doctors, symbolic of the 1,000 people in the UK who die every year from second-hand smoke, would respond to their call for letters to the Prime Minister urging him to introduce a smoking ban. But in under four weeks the Association was deluged with more than 4,500 letters from concerned practitioners.

The letters will be delivered to 10 Downing Street on Monday, July 5.

Asked for a reaction to reports suggesting that the Government was looking seriously at the possibility of banning smoking in public places, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson said that a consultation on this issue was currently in place and a White Paper was due out in the autumn. The PMOS declined to speculate on the outcome.

(MB)

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