BMA reinforces call for UK-wide smoking ban

The British Medical Association (BMA) has reinforced its call for a UK-wide ban on smoking in public places, with the publication of a report which, it claims, will “counter the myths” generated by opponents to the ban.

The ‘Behind the Smokescreen’ report said that a smoking ban in all enclosed public places would reduce the amount of smoking in the home and encourage people to quit smoking altogether.

One of the key arguments against a ban in public places is that it would encourage more smoking in the home, but the BMA argued that information from Ireland, where a smoking ban was introduced last year, indicated that this was not the case.

The government had proposed a ban on smoking in public places in its public health white paper, published last November. However, the ban would not apply to pubs, which do not serve food.

The BMA also challenged allegations made by the tobacco industry that there was no risk to health from exposure to second-hand smoke, stating that an independent review on second-hand and cancer concluded that exposure to passive smoke increased the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by between 20-30%.

Mr James Johnson, Chairman of the BMA, said: "The medical profession is united in its calls for a UK-wide ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces. Recent research reports that passive smoking kills 30 people each day. The true cost of delaying legislation is not financial, it is human."

However, a total ban on smoking in public places has been strongly opposed by smokers’ lobby group, Forest, who have repeatedly cast doubt on the medical evidence to support the claim that passive smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

Lord Harris, President of Forest, said: "Proposals to ban smoking in all public places would be understandable if they were based on incontrovertible scientific evidence of harm to others. But this is very far from the truth. The truth is that the dozens of studies conducted around the world over the past 25 years fail spectacularly to yield any reliably stable, uniform or statistically significant link between lifetime exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and ill health in non-smokers.”

Lord Harris added: "We must keep constantly in mind that the 'evidence' on passive smoking is based on nothing more substantial than estimates, guesswork, subjective recollections and even gossip. The dangers of heavy cigarette smoking may justify a steady educational campaign on the possible consequences. But it is no excuse for stirring up a fear of passive smoking that is out of all proportion to the reality."


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