Doctors demand ban on smoking in public

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Doctors stepped up their demands for tougher measures to protect the nation's health yesterday by calling for outright bans on smoking in public and the advertising of junk food to children.

Doctors stepped up their demands for tougher measures to protect the nation's health yesterday by calling for outright bans on smoking in public and the advertising of junk food to children.

As John Reid, the Health Secretary, prepares to publish a White Paper on public health this month, the annual conference of the British Medical Association in Llandudno deli- vered a stinging rebuke to ministers for failing to counter the damaging effects of passive smoking and over-eating.

Peter Maguire, a consultant from Northern Ireland, said to cheers: "Labour are considering a ban. Stop considering it and go and do it."

The BMA vote came as a leaked report suggested Labour's manifesto for the next election would include a proposal for a smoking ban. A spokesman for the party said the proposal was one of several being considered and no decisions had yet been taken.

Dr Maguire told the BMA conference that he travelled regularly to Ireland, which imposed a ban on smoking in public places in February, because that was where he could enjoy a beer in a smoke-free pub.

"I have seen that the ban has not affected business. Business is booming there. Smoke-free places means life, not death." He added: "Disgracefully, in the UK only 1 per cent of bars and restaurants are smoke-free. We have a workforce that is being poisoned and most are in the poorly paid hospitality industry."

In the UK, an estimated three million workers are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke and around 1.3 million are exposed at least 75 per cent of the time. Poorer workers are at greatest risk.

Michael Cassidy, a GP from Milton Keynes, said: "Every once in a while an opportunity arises in health care to make a significant gain by doing something simple. Banning smoking in public places is one of those opportunities."

Only one doctor at the meeting, Faiz Rehman, a GP in Bognor Regis, opposed the smoking ban. Speaking later he said he was not in favour of compulsion. "People should be discouraged from smoking but I feel they should have the right to choose," he said.

Doctors also voted overwhelmingly for a total ban on all commercial food advertising to children under 12 to help tackle Britain's obesity epidemic.

Representatives condemned the use of sports personalities such as the former footballer Gary Lineker to advertise foods such as crisps and sweets.

Peter Tiplady, a public health specialist from Cumbria, said the food industry spent more than £300m a year promoting unhealthy foods. "Up to 99 per cent of all food advertising during children's TV programmes is for fatty or sugary foods. This selective targeting of children by food advertisers is unwelcome, unjustifiable and absolutely unforgivable."

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