News

Smoke-free workplaces would hit tobacco profits

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7487.325-a (Published 10 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:325
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    Tobacco multinationals would lose an estimated £310m ($575m; €450m) in sales every year if UK workplaces were smoke free, claims the BMA's chairman, James Johnson.

    His comments come in the foreword to a report, Smoke-free World, from the BMA's Tobacco Control Resource Centre, in which doctors' leaders from eight countries describe the success of antismoking legislation.



    Embedded Image

    Cuban workplaces, including this cigar factory, are now subject to a smoking ban

    Credit: STEPHEN FERRY/LIASON/GETTY IMAGES

    “Powerful vested interests peddle myths that smoke-free legislation is unnecessary,” wrote Mr Johnson. “They say it is unworkable, unpopular, and will lead to economic ruin. Such predictions are little more than scaremongering. The evidence shows that smoke-free laws save lives.”

    In the report a statement from the Californian Medical Association seems to confirm this. Smoke-free laws were introduced in California in July 1998, and since then, says its president, Dr Robert Hertza, “California's lung cancer rates have fallen six times faster than in US States without smoke-free laws.”

    Dr James Reilly, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said that more than 7000 somkers quit in the six months before the ban on smoking in public places became law in March 2004.

    In the recent white paper on public health for England, Choosing Health—Making Healthy Choices Easier, the health secretary, John Reid, announced plans that will partially ban smoking in enclosed public places (BMJ 2004;329: 1201, 20 Nov).

    Vivienne Nathanson, BMA's head of science and ethics, said: “These doctors are telling us that partial measures don't work. If you work in a government building you'll be lucky, but if you work in a pub that does not serve food, you'll have a greater chance of developing lung cancer or heart disease.

    “It's time for the UK government to play fair and protect everyone from exposure to secondhand smoke at work.”

    Meanwhile in Cuba, a country renowned for its high quality tobacco used in cigars, a ban has been announced on smoking in public places, including hospitals and workplaces. According to official statistics, 32% of Cubans smoke.

    Smoke-free World is available at www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/content/smokefreeworld