One Hospitality worker a week dies from passive smoking, study shows
One employee a week in the UK hospitality industry dies from passive smoking at work, according to new estimates.
Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College, London, calculated the figure from the number of employees in the industry, their exposure to tobacco smoke, and their likely risk of dying as a result.
He worked on the basis that for a worker in a bar or restaurant exposure to secondhand smoke is three times higher than the average non-smoker who is married to a smoker. "Passive smoking at work kills almost twice as many as exposure at home," he concluded.
He also estimated that environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace generally causes about 700 deaths a year in the United Kingdom.
Professor Jamrozik's findings were presented at a conference this week on environmental tobacco smoke and the hospitality industry, held at the Royal College of Physicians, London.
Although the number of people who work in a smoke-free environment has risen by 10% since 1996 to 50%, about 1 in 10 employees still work in areas with no restrictions on smoking. Most of these are in the hospitality sector.
John Britton, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and chairman of the college's Tobacco Advisory Group, presented UK poll data to show that smoke-free policies are likely to increase business, not reduce it.
Quoting from the recent Office for National Statistics' omnibus survey of nearly 4000 people, he said that more than 80% supported a ban on smoking in restaurants.
A Mori poll of more than 2000 people from September 2003 found that nearly half favoured an outright ban on smoking indoors in public places.
"The surveys show that most people in this country who are smokers don't want to be. Only 30% are happy to be smokers or are resigned to it. By making it more difficult for people to smoke you are inspiring them to do something they want to do anyway," Professor Britton said.
"The poll is clear that three quarters of people say a ban would make no difference about whether they use a pub or restaurant. The proportion that says [they would use it] 'less' is 8%, and those who say 'more' is 17%. So roughly twice as many are likely to come into a bar or restaurant than leave itâ€”so, on balance, good for business," he said.
Professor Britton said he was "completely baffled" as to why the government had not banned smoking on NHS premises. He said the Department of Health itself only became smoke-free last year. "If you ask the department at the highest level they say it is because they don't like telling NHS institutions what to do. That's news to me."
There are some high profile examples of smoke-free public areas in the United Kingdom, including Gateshead's Metro Centre, the Pizza Hut restaurants, and 12 000 outlets of McDonald's. But there has been widespread failure to implement the voluntary code agreed by the Department of Health and the hospitality industry. Out of 56 000 pubs in England, only 53% are reported as complying with the code. Only 26 pubs were smoke-free.
Richard Edwards, of the School of Epidemiology and Health Sciences, University of Manchester Medical School, poured scorn on the voluntary approach.
"Compliance with the code includes allowing smoking everywhere, as long as you put up a sign [saying smoking is allowed]."
He said more than half (56%) of the pubs that complied with the code allowed smoking throughout without ventilation.