Passive smoking at work is thought to be responsible for more than 700 deaths every year, with second-hand smoke twice as lethal as all other types of workplace accidents.
Staff in the hospitality sector, particularly those working behind a bar, are at the most risk with more than 49 killed every year through passive smoking.
However, the days of smoky pubs and workplaces are numbered after politicians is the UK voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in virtually all enclosed places in Britain.
The Smoking Ban is now active in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with England last to enforce the ban from July 1st 2007.
The Dangers of Passive Smoking
Although there are some scientific arguments around the issue there is little doubt that passive smoke poses a massive risk to employees.
Staff working in areas where smoking has been permitted have inhaled a large cocktail of chemicals made up of mainstream smoke exhaled by smokers and sidestream smoke from the burning tips of cigarettes and cigars.
Because the vast majority of workplaces banned smoking indoors before the 2007 smoking ban came into force, employees working in pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants have faced the biggest risks from passive smoking.
Some research suggests that second-hand smoke is actually more dangerous because those exposed to it are breathing in unfiltered cigarette smoke.
It exposes workers to a whole range of dangerous chemicals including nicotine, benzene, carbon monoxide, ammonia, cyanide and formaldehyde. This type of smoke also contains carcinogenic chemicals which can cause a range of cancers and Related Diseases.
In the latest study by Professor Konrad Jamrozik, formerly of Imperial College London, it is estimated that passive smoking at work kills two people every day or about a fifth or all people dying because of exposure.
Passive smoking or environmental tobacco smoke can cause a range of diseases including lung cancer and heart problems, as well as making existing conditions like asthma even worse.
According to the TUC second hand smoke at work is bad for businesses too, with tobacco-related illness costing British industry more than 50 million workdays each year.
The Law Around Passive Smoking at Work
It is now illegal to smoke in any enclosed public space, as of July 1st 2007 which includes all working environments.
A man in Scotland was awarded a fixed penalty fine of £50 for smoking inside his cab, as this too is classed as a working environment.
The Smoking Ban
Workers in Scotland have been protected by a total smoking ban which was introduced to all enclosed public places including pubs and restaurants in March 2006.
The Republic of Ireland has had full smoking ban since 2004, while workers in Northern Ireland a ban came in to force in April 2007.
Wales has also introduced a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places, while England has also introduced a total ban in all enclosed spaces since 1st July 2007.
Smoke-Free Working Conditions
There is a far larger bulk of research covering workers from the United States where several cities have already implemented smoking bans in public places.
Air samples taken in bars after the introduction of a complete ban showed a 90% drop in pollution, while hospitality workers tested for nicotine by-products showed a drop of 85% following the ban.
Last Updated on 25 May 2021