Doctors call on the British Government to make all workplaces smokefree

Today (Wednesday 30 June) at the BMA's annual conference in Llandudno, Dr Peter Maguire signed a giant prescription form in front of 500 doctors calling on the Government to make all workplaces smokefree.

While proposing the motion on smoking Dr Maguire also read from some of the four and half thousand doctors' letters, calling for the Government to ban smoking in enclosed public places, that the BMA will be delivering to the Prime Minister on Monday 5 July.

Quotes from the letters:

"As a public health doctor, I deal daily with the devastating impact of smoking. Smoking remains the main cause of preventable illness and death in the UK, and a major cause of health inequalities."

"As a doctor engaged in research into children's conditions affecting the spine and chest, I know that for infants and children, the effects of second-hand smoke can be serious."

"I have experience of a family in which the mother smokes and the youngest child has had frequent admissions with acute asthma attacks, but the mother has never stopped smoking."

At the beginning of June 2004 the BMA urged 1000 doctors to write a letter to the Prime Minister on this issue to represent the 1000 people who die every year from second-hand tobacco smoke. By the end of the month 4,500 letters were received.

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

Dr Maguire, a consultant from Northern Ireland and the Deputy Chairman of the BMA Board of Science said: "I live in Northern Ireland and yet I travel down to the Republic because I know that's where I have the choice to enjoy a beer in a smokefree pub. I have seen that the ban on smoking in public places in Ireland has not affected business – business is booming there. Smokefree places means life not death."

He added: "The British Government needs to have courage and follow the lead of Ireland, New York and Norway."

There is conclusive evidence that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory infections.

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