Top British Doctors Demand Smokefree Workplace Legislation
1,000 British adults die every year from diseases caused by tobacco smoke pollution
London, 11/24/03 - Leading British doctors today launched an unprecedented attack on the British Government's weak against tobacco smoke pollution.  Labeling the government's  policy of voluntary regulation "useless," the doctors called for an immediate smokefree workplace law to protect ALL British workers. In a letter to The Times  newspaper,  signatories, headed by the president of the Royal College of Physicians,  criticized the current system of self regulation.  They wrote: We believe that the time has come for legislation to make all public places smoke-free. In the hospitality industry,  smoke exposure is very high and poses a particular risk, the letter said. The current system of self regulation has failed to protect the majority of staff or customers.  "All [workers] have a right to freedom from tobacco smoke pollution. "The doctors announced the publication of a study entitled "Tobacco Smoke Pollution: The Hard Facts."  The study estimated that 1,000 British adults die every year  from diseases caused by tobacco smoke pollution.

"The great majority of people in the U.K. -- 80 percent -- do not smoke," wrote Carol Black,  president of the Royal College of Physicians. "Most find cigarette smoke  unpleasant and irritating" and a majority of the British public would prefer public  places to be smokefree.

All  Royal Colleges of Medicine warned that employers had a duty to protect  staff from harm and that smokefree workplace legislation could save 150,000 lives in the long term. 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. According to The Times, it is  believed to be the first time that all Royal Colleges have made such an issue a  common cause.
Britian's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson  (equivalent to the U.S. Surgeon General) had previously called for smokefree  workplace legislation, including smokefree bars, clubs and restaurants, but  his recommendation ran into opposition from the very government that  appointed him. The Royal Colleges report was welcomed by  all smokefree advocacy groups including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which  repeated calls for a New York City-style smokefree workplace law.  "Legislation to end employees' involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke at work is long overdue," said ASH Director Deborah Arnott. 

Smokefree establishments are still rare in Britain compared to the United  States. Pizza Hut implemented one of the country's first smokefree policies in  August this year, saying the decision was being taken to protect both customers  and staff from the dangers of tobacco smoke.

(Parts excerpted from The Scotsman, Reuters, and CNSNews)