Analysis And Comment Public health

Blowing smoke: British American Tobacco's air filtration scheme

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7535.227 (Published 26 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:227
  1. Nadine Rae Leavell, subcontracted researcher1,
  2. Monique E Muggli, subcontracted researcher1,
  3. Richard D Hurt, director (rhurt@mayo.edu)2,
  4. James Repace, visiting assistant clinical professor3
  1. 1 Mayo Clinic Nicotine Research Program, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
  2. 2 Nicotine Dependence Center, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street, SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
  3. 3 Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA
  1. Correspondence to: R D Hurt
  • Accepted 6 January 2006

As Westminster MPs prepare for a free vote on a complete smoking ban in public places, researchers question the efficacy of a technique meant to clear the air of tobacco smoke—heavily promoted by tobacco companies as an alternative to legislation

The health benefits of smoke-free public places are well proved.13 Nevertheless, the tobacco industry has attempted to create public doubt about and refute the scientific evidence on the adverse health consequences of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.46 Furthermore, the industry has promoted the accommodation of smokers and non-smokers by separate seating, ventilation, and air filtration.7 8 None of these proposed solutions, which the UK government promoted in the 1999 Public Places Charter on Smoking, provides adequate protection. We therefore urge the government to pass comprehensive smoke-free workplace and public places laws similar to those already existing in several countries.

Current measures to reduce exposure

In 1998, the UK Department of Health issued a white paper called Smoking Kills,9 which suggested initiatives to address smoking in the workplace and public places through a voluntary and self regulatory Public Places Charter on Smoking. The charter, proposed by the hospitality industry and launched in 1999 by the minister for public health, requires pubs and restaurants that sign up to voluntarily implement several principles including the accommodation of smokers and non-smokers by separate seating, ventilation, and air filtration and to display five specific signs at the entrance showing compliance with these measurements (see bmj.com). The designated policy options are

  • Smoking not allowed in public areas

  • Smoking allowed in public areas

  • Smoking allowed only in designated smoking areas

  • Ventilation meets standard; smoking allowed

  • Ventilation meets standard; smoking allowed in designated areas.

The charter was promoted and financially supported by members of the tobacco industry.10

Although the minister of public health …

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