Delivered-To:  Mon, 30 Mar 1998
Source: The Scotsman
Author: Cahal Milmo


Doctors call for total ban on smoking in public amid attack on 'repeated
delays' over tobacco controls

DOCTORS' leaders are calling on the Government to accept what they claim is
"irrefutable evidence" and impose a total ban on smoking in public.

An open letter sent from the British Medical Association to the public
health minister Tessa Jowell calls for urgent steps to curb passive smoking
and expresses health professionals' concern at the lack of new government
measures to control tobacco consumption.

In a hard-hitting attack which describes cigarette manufacturers as "public
enemy number one", the BMA chairman Dr Sandy Macara says: "We are concerned
by the repeated delays in the publication of the white paper on tobacco

"The evidence is now irrefutable and accepted by all but the tobacco
industry that the health risks associated with passive smoking are
sufficiently serious to warrant regulation and, if necessary, legislation."

The BMA letter follows an angry disagreement earlier this month about a
claim made by the tobacco firm BAT Industries that a World Health
Organisation report showed that passive smoking was harmless.

Health experts angrily denied the interpretation, saying the WHO study in
fact proved there is a risk of cancer from breathing in other people's

The BMA says that a voluntary code to halt smoking in certain public spaces
would be ineffective and widely flouted.

Their letter adds that "courage is required" to bring in a nationwide ban.

A Department of Health spokesman said a wide range of measures on tobacco
control were being examined but denied there had been a delay in the white
paper, which is scheduled for publication in early summer.

In his letter, Dr Macara also targets under-age smoking, calling for tough
law enforcement with higher fines for shop owners selling to minors .

The letter also suggest that token-operated cigarette vending machines
should be restricted to adult locations.

These demands now suggest a departure from a BMA policy held since 1984,
which called for the age limit on tobacco sales to be raised to 18. The
body now admits that such a measure would be "too simplistic a solution".

Help for smokers who want to quit should also be improved with new help for
GPs and nursing staff .

While underlining the need for extra funding to bolster scarce NHS
resources, Dr Macara focuses his criticism on the tobacco industry itself.

He says: "I would like to emphasise that we must not lose sight of the fact
that the tobacco industry is public enemy number one.

"We must examine every avenue to put increasing pressure on an industry
that demonstrates by its actions that it has no concern for the health of
the nation."

The Tobacco Manufacturers Association countered the accusation by accusing
Dr Macara of being a "master of self-publicity and ill manners".

John Carlisle, executive director of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association,
said in response: "We prefer to conduct these arguments in terms of dignity
and respect. The facts are not irrefutable, as Dr Macara claims. The
minister needs evidence from all sides laid before her, not the ranting of
an angry doctor."