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New Clause 5 — Smoke-free premises: exemptions

Part of Orders of the Day — Health Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 14th February 2006.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 5:15 pm, 14th February 2006

I acknowledge what Richard Doll did in not only the United Kingdom, but worldwide. His authority on the matter was denied for many years, mostly due to the connivance of the tobacco industry, which tried to hide the fact that deaths were caused by tobacco here and throughout the world.

Using the estimates of risk in the SCOTH report, Professor Konrad Jamrozik calculated in a paper published in the British Medical Journal that exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace caused about 600 deaths a year, which is about three times the number of people in this country killed in industrial accidents each year. Second-hand smoke is also responsible for thousands of episodes of illness. For example, Asthma UK reports that it is the second most common trigger of asthma attacks at work.

Of course, workers who are routinely exposed to other people's smoke are those who are most at risk. Bar workers are thus top of the list, but we should not forget that the Government's figures show that about 2 million people work in places in which smoking is allowed throughout and that more than 10 million people work in places in which smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises—that is not a small number. I suggest that there are thus sufficient health and safety justifications for ending smoking in the workplace. I deeply regret that the Bill is seen as a measure of public opinion, rather than a measure to protect people in the workplace, which is how other such legislation that we pass is thought of.