Delivered-To: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 Source: The Scotsman Contact: http://www.scotsman.com Author: Cahal Milmo BMA FUMES AT GOVERNMENT 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 control. "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 smoke. 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."