Government rejects a ban on smoking in public places

The Government has rejected calls for a ban on smoking in public places,
despite growing pressure from the medical profession.

In November, the 18 royal colleges of medicine, headed by the Royal College
of Physicians, called for legislation to eliminate the 1,000 deaths a year
caused by passive smoking.

That call has been backed by the British Medical Association (BMA), which
reiterated its position that legislation should be brought in to prohibit
smoking in the workplace at the start of December.

A survey by pollster YouGov, also published in December, found that 87 per
cent of those questioned supported a ban in offices, 80 per cent backed a ban
in factories and 94 per cent would welcome a ban in shops.

But public health minister Melanie Johnson, while agreeing that smoke-free
places are "an ideal", said that a universal ban was not justified,
and that such a move would not yet have enough public support. As it stands,
businesses are simply encouraged to create a smoke-free atmosphere through a
voluntary code of conduct.

The Government’s position even goes against the advice of its own chief
medical officer for England, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, who argued in favour
of a smoking ban.

However, ministers are thought to be reluctant to follow the example of
cities such as New York for fear of being branded a ‘nanny state’. There is
also opposition to an outright ban from the pub and hospitality trade.

Dr Bill O’Neill, Scottish BMA secretary, said: "For more than 20 years,
the UK has had a succession of voluntary agreements on smoking, and not one has
been successful in protecting the health of the public.

"By continuing to hide behind voluntary measures, the Government, the
Health and Safety Commission and employers are failing to protect
employees."

In an unrelated move, the Department of Health (DoH) has agreed a deal with
suppliers of smoking cessation products to help at least 10,000 more smokers
quit by giving the NHS free quitting products, such as nicotine patches and
gum.

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