At least 20 countries around the world are working towards smokefree public places and it is time for the UK to provide a strong lead, Cancer Research UK's Chief Executive declares.
The pressure on the UK will mount today when Sweden joins the six countries that have already implemented comprehensive smokefree legislation – Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Malta, Italy and Bhutan.
Cancer Research UK's Chief Executive Professor Alex Markham says: "Stopping smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places is the most effective single piece of action countries can take to halt the damage wreaked by secondhand smoke."
The UK Government currently proposes an end to smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public places in England and Wales by 2008, but plans to exempt pubs that do not serve 'prepared' food. This will leave many thousands of workers unprotected.
Scotland has already opted to enact a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places, without such exemptions.
Professor Markham adds: "The experiences of countries that have gone smokefree show that the legislation works best when it contains as few exemptions as possible.
"The success of the Irish smokefree law provides the UK with an excellent model.
"Support for their law significantly increased after it was introduced on 29 March last year. Statistics reveal that 98 per cent of the Irish public believe that workplaces are healthier since the introduction of the law."
A total of 66 countries have ratified the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which became international law on 27 February this year.
Jean King, Director of Tobacco Control at Cancer Research UK, says: "The Framework Convention is designed to enable coordinated action on the devastating, but wholly preventable, burden of smoking on many already impoverished countries.
"The landmark document stipulates, among other things, that member countries must provide protection for their citizens from secondhand smoke. It is encouraging that so many countries are taking action towards this end."
Professor Markham adds: "Smoky workplaces are set to be relegated to history the world over.
The UK Government must take the lead by introducing comprehensive legislation for smoke-free workplaces and enclosed public places, with no exemptions, as soon as possible."