The chief medical officer for England has called for the NHS to become completely smoke-free by the end of this year.
In his annual report on the state of the nation’s public health, Sir Liam Donaldson strongly reiterated his view that all workplaces in the UK should be made smoke-free.
Such a policy would bring a net benefit to the UK of between £2.3bn and £2.7bn, or the equivalent of treating 1.3 to 1.5 million people on hospital waiting lists, he said.
Sir Liam recommended the creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces last year, but opposition from the hospitality and leisure industry has meant no decision has yet been made.
The Government has been closely monitoring how Ireland’s decision at the end of April to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants has gone .
A study of 1,000 people by the country’s Department of Health and Children shows that 95 per cent of people welcome the legislation as a good thing for people’s health.
In his report, Sir Donald drew conclusions from visits he made to Ireland, California and New York, which have all banned public smoking, and from a formal economic analysis of the effects of any ban.
“The evidence and analysis shows that concern about falling profits is unfounded. In other parts of the world, where legislation to create smoke-free public places and workplaces has been introduced, profits in the hospitality and leisure industries actually rise,” he said.
The Government is understood to be poised to bring in some form of public smoking ban in its public health White Paper, which was due to be published over the summer.
Paul Streets, chief executive of the Health Development Agency, said the NHS has a duty to protect the health of staff and patients.
“The NHS should be an example to other employers,” he added.