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Passive Smoking Report

Going smoke-free

The medical case for clean air in the home, at work and in public places

A report on passive smoking by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, July 2005

Tobacco smoke kills more people in the UK than any other avoidable cause. Therefore, effective tobacco control policies have a major part in improving public health. Since publishing the White Paper Smoking kills in 1998, the Government has made progress in many areas, particularly in developing smoking cessation services and banning the advertising and marketing of tobacco products. But much more can be done.

One important area is the harm caused by passive smoking. The 1998 White Paper recognised this and contained proposals for a voluntary code of practice to prevent passive smoke exposure in most workplaces, and a Public Places Charter to reduce exposure to smoke in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality industry venues. Although the voluntary code of practice was drafted it was not implemented, and the Public Places Charter has failed.

This report sets out in detail the impact of passive smoking in the UK. It reviews the effectiveness, and the ethical and economic implications of legislating to prevent exposure, and concludes that the only viable solution is legislation to make all workplaces and public places smoke-free. The Scottish Parliament has already decided on this approach.

The primary reason for smoke-free workplaces and public places is to protect individuals against involuntary exposure to passive smoking and the associated health risks. However, comprehensive smoke-free policies offer more than simple protection against passive smoke. Smoke-free policies help smokers to give up smoking, and discourage young people from starting to smoke in the first place. They also protect children at home by helping parents to quit, or at least by encouraging them to make their homes smoke-free. The particular benefit to children and other vulnerable or disadvantaged people in our society are important additional justifications for smoke-free legislation.

This report demonstrates how smoke-free legislation will save lives, reduce health inequalities, and improve public health. Smoke-free policies are popular and they are highly effective. Introducing comprehensive smoke-free legislation should be a public health priority for the UK.

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