Since the Royal Medical Colleges widely-publicised call last November for smoke-free public places, there have been many developments in this area.
Representatives from the RCP and other health organisations have met Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Ms Tessa Jowell MP to press the case for smoke-free restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Although the Government is reluctant to introduce national legislation and would like to see a voluntary approach, Tessa Jowell has also met hospitality industry representatives to ask them to introduce measures aimed at increasing the availability of no-smoking areas.
Many cities, including Liverpool which will be European Capital of Culture in 2008, are looking at ways of introducing city-wide bans.
The hospitality trade is fighting hard against the introduction of a smoking ban, but does it really have anything to fear? Could a ban bring in hundreds of thousands of new customers who were put off by smoke, or, like many asthma sufferers, cannot set foot in a smoky atmosphere for fear of asthma attacks? Experience around the world where braver administrations have brought the public what the democratic majority want – smoke-free pubs and restaurants, is showing what is possible.
The ban in California is accepted, and tax receipts from the hospitality trade have increased in New York following the recently introduced ban.
A one-day conference on May 17 at the Royal College of Physicians looks at these issues and sets out the medical, legal and economic cases for a smoke-free UK. We have attracted three major international speakers to talk about the impact of introducing bans in other countries – Dr Melanie Wakefield from Cancer Council Victoria, Australia; Tom Power, the Director of the Irish Office for Tobacco Control, whose ban will have been in place for about six weeks at the time of the conference; and Dr Nancy Miller from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Fiona Adshead will outline the importance of smoke-free places for public health, and speakers from the RCP’s own expert Tobacco Advisory Group will cover the extent and hazards of exposure to tobacco smoke, the options for change and smokers’ attitudes to the issue.