UK Government running out of excuses for not acting to implement a ban on smoking in public places

The Government is rapidly running out of excuses for not acting to implement a ban on smoking in public places.  Despite widespread public support for smokefree policies in the UK the Government is still undecided on the issue.  Evidence from around the world demonstrates clearly however that smokefree policies are popular, effective and help thousands of smokers to quit smoking.  Many UK businesses are already completely smokefree, but the hospitality industry has proved particularly reluctant to act to protect staff and customers from the dangers of tobacco smoke.

At a conference on Monday 17 May on Environmental Tobacco Smoke and the Hospitality Industry, The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) will again call for a complete ban, and speakers will debunk the myths about passive smoking and explain why it is essential, not only for the public exposed to tobacco smoke, but for employees who are most at risk.  For the first time all the relevant issues will be covered in one conference.

Starting with the basics of the problem, Allan Hackshaw, Deputy Director, Cancer Research UK and UCL Cancer Trial Centre, will explain what environmental tobacco smoke contains and why it is harmful, and Professor Martin Jarvis, Health Behaviour Unit, Cancer Research UK and UCL London, will outline who is most exposed to it and what effect this is likely to have on their health.  Professor Konrad Jamrozik, Chair of Primary Care Epidemiology, Imperial College London, will produce new figures on the numbers of hospitality industry employees and public who die from second-hand tobacco smoke.

Three eminent speakers from other countries where a ban has been implemented will tell their success stories.  Nancy Miller, Assistant Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will show that the New York ban has not had a negative impact in employment in bars and restaurants.  Professor Melanie Wakefield, Director of the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at the Victoria Cancer Control Research Institute, looks at the economic aspects of smokefree policies in Australia, where objective studies show that there has been no negative impact on business, and legislation can be introduced without economic harm.

Closer to home, Dave Molloy, Chief Inspector from the Irish Office of Tobacco Control, will show how political determination, research, expert opinion and excellent communication of the issues can lead to successful implementation of a ban.  Since it started on March 29th, the ban has been so much of a success that the tourist industry and hospitality sector are using it in promotion and marketing campaigns.

A ban would be equally popular in the UK, where surveys have shows strong support for smokefree restaurants and bars.  Professor John Britton, the Chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group, will use UK poll data to show that smokefree policies are likely to increase business, not to reduce it.

Dr Richard Edwards, a Senior lecturer in Public Health at the University of Manchester, will look in detail at the ventilation options and show how a completely smokefree environment is the only practicable and effective method of protecting staff and customers from second-hand smoke.

Although many organisations in the hospitality trade are still hoping to solve the problem by the discredited ventilation solution, some are questioning this approach.  Peter Linacre, Managing Director of Massive Pub Group will give the conference his views on how a level playing field with a complete ban would be better than piecemeal implementation or increased ventilation.

Deputy Chief medical Officer Dr Fiona Adshead will put forward the health arguments for smokefree policies at work and in public places.  Tom Mellish from the TUC will look in detail at the issues for individual employees, while John Hall from Thompsons Solicitors will review the legal responsibilities of employees regarding tobacco smoke at work, the status of past and current legal claims for compensation for damage caused by passive smoke at work, and the implications for the industry. http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk

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