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Ban smoking in public.

Byline: Laura Elston, Pa News

Smoking should be banned in public places in Britain, senior doctors demanded today.

All 13 Royal Colleges of Medicine warned that employers had a duty to protect staff from harm and that smoke-free workplaces could save 150,000 lives in the long term.

In a letter to a national newspaper, 18 signatories, headed by president of the Royal College of Physicians, Carol Black, criticised the current system of self regulation.

They wrote: "We believe that the time has come for legislation to make public places smoke-free."

An estimated 1,000 adults die every year from diseases caused by passive smoking, the experts said.

"Many workplaces are now smoke-free but in the hospitality industry smoke exposure is still very high and poses a particular risk," the letter added.

"The current system of self regulation has failed to protect the majority of staff or customers."

The ban, which Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson had previously called to be considered, would include bars, clubs and restaurants.

The newspaper said it is believed this is the first time all Royal Colleges have made such an issue a common cause.

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."

However, public health minister Melanie Johnson maintained voluntary changes were the best approach.

"Smoke-free places are the ideal," she said. "However, a universal ban cannot be justified while progress is being made on a voluntary basis.

"We are calling on the hospitality industry to deliver faster and more substantial improvements in providing smoke free environments.

"Pizza Hut have already made the move to ban smoking in all their restaurants and this is the kind of voluntary action that we are looking for."

Anti-smoking group Ash welcomed the letter, with spokeswoman Amanda Sandford saying: "The more pressure we have on the Government the better."

She said the voluntary approach had not been effective so far.

Pizza Hut announced its ban in August this year.

The firm said the decision was being taken to protect both customers and staff from the dangers of passive smoking.

Professor Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, told BBC Radio: "If we were to ban smoking in public places, we estimate that there would be, over time, at least a saving of 160,000 lives per year."
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2003
Words:403
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