Top British doctors back smoking ban in UK

Smoking should be banned in public places in Britain, senior doctors demanded today.

All 13 Royal Colleges of Medicine warned that employers had a duty to protect staff from harm and that smoke-free workplaces could save 150,000 lives in the long term.

In a letter to The Times newspaper in England, 18 signatories, headed by president of the Royal College of Physicians, Carol Black, criticised the current system of self regulation.

They wrote: “We believe that the time has come for legislation to make public places smoke-free.”

An estimated 1,000 adults die every year from diseases caused by passive smoking, the experts said.

“Many workplaces are now smoke-free but in the hospitality industry smoke exposure is still very high and poses a particular risk,” the letter added.

“The current system of self regulation has failed to protect the majority of staff or customers.”

The ban, which Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson had previously called to be considered, would include bars, clubs and restaurants.

According to The Times, it is believed that this is the first time all Royal Colleges have made such an issue a common cause.

The letter finished: “As doctors, seeing the daily consequences of smoking and passive smoking, we agree and call on the Government to introduce legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Public health minister Melanie Johnson maintained that voluntary changes were the best approach despite the calls for the Government to alter the law.

“Smoke-free places are the ideal,” she said. “However, a universal ban cannot be justified while progress is being made on a voluntary basis.

“We are calling on the hospitality industry to deliver faster and more substantial improvements in providing smoke free environments.

“Pizza Hut have already made the move to ban smoking in all their restaurants and this is the kind of voluntary action that we are looking for other businesses to take.”

Anti-smoking group Ash welcomed the letter.

“It’s a very important move. We are very pleased that the Colleges have done this,” spokeswoman Amanda Sandford said.

“The more pressure we have on the Government the better.”

Asked if the Government would take notice of the comments, she said: “I don’t see how they can fail not to. It’s not an issue that’s going to go away.”

She said the voluntary charter and the approved code of practice had not been effective so far.

“Ignoring the issue is totally unsatisfactory,” she added.

Pizza Hut announced its ban in August this year, saying the decision was being taken to protect both customers and staff from the dangers of passive smoking.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Ireland