SUBMISSION BY BEN TAYLOR
I am writing to voice my support for this member's bill tabled by Mr Stewart Maxwell MSP on 3 February 2004. Smoking in public areas is already banned in the Republic of Ireland, as well as several states in the USA, and has been welcomed by the medical profession as a great leap forward in public health. Where similar legislation has been introduced, it already significantly reduced the prevalence of tobacco smoking and increased tourism and business for bars and restaurants.
The health risks of tobacco smoking are irrefutable. However, in recent years there have been several studies that have showed that 'passive inhalation of second-hand tobacco smoke also has significant public health risks. I The one study that did not show a link was heavily funded by the tobacco industry, and the methodology has been questioned in subsequent correspondence to both the BMJ3 and the Lancet.4
I believe that people who understand the risks of smoking have the right as grown adults to continue to take the health risks associated with smoking tobacco. However, I choose not to take these risks and do not smoke. My informed choice and my right to abstain from cigarette smoking are infringed by people smoking around me, and forcing me to inhale their second hand fumes. Aside from the strong risks to my health, it is also extremely unpleasant.
People who work in smoke filled regulated areas, such as restaurants and public houses are exposed to a massive amount of cigarette smoke. Although I do not regard anecdotes as evidence, one only has to look at the case of Roy Castle, a lifelong non-smoker who died from lung cancer, believed to have been caused by occupational exposure to passive smoking. Occupational health risks cannot be ignored. Those exposed to asbestos and coal dust in the past are now able to launch legal action against their former employers because the businesses and the government failed to take measures to protect their health, despite knowing the risks.
The question now stands, what is the best possible way that we can protect those who currently have an occupational exposure to second hand tobacco fumes'? The tobacco industry, and smokers' interest groups such as FOREST have proposed ventilation to protect non-smokers from passive smoking. However, a MEDLINE search did not show any credible evidence that this offers adequate protection, and the World Health Organisation does not support their use, stating that "Since there is no evidence for a safe exposure level [to second hand smoke], legislation limited to ventilation design and standards cannot achieve smoke-free workplaces and public places". Banning smoking in certain areas of an establishment, such as by the bar, although initially attractive, is not very. effective. Employees who go around collecting glasses or serving tables in smoking areas are still exposed.
This now leaves two options- you can either require employers to issue all Staff gas-masks, or legislate to stop people from smoking in public places. Ignoring the issue is not an option, and gas-masks are frankly impractical! A ban on smoking in public places will protect bar staff entirely from occupational exposure to passive smoke. It can be enforced as it is in other parts of the world. Police and private door Staff are already able to enforce other laws in bars and . restaurants (for example, people fighting in a bar will be prosecuted and usually banned from the
If we were to ban smoking in public places, it would go much further than protecting the health of employees in public places, children, asthmatics etc. In California, it appears that the prevalence of cigarette smoking has declined since the introduction of a similar bill. Smoking causes a host of disabling diseases, and is responsible for a tremendous amount of morbidity, and mortality worldwide. The public health of Scots is particularly poor, and we have a shockingly high incidence and prevalence of cerebrovascular disease, acute coronary events/ coronal heart disease, bronchial carcinoma and chronic obstructive airways disease. It is perhaps no accident that these are all diseases that are caused and exacerbated by cigarette smoking. Therefore a ban on smoking in public places would benefit us all, and make Scotland a far healthier place to live.