Workplace smoking ban (except for pubs and clubs) is backed by 80%

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Four out of five people support the idea of a ban on smoking in the workplace, the largest poll of public attitudes to prohibition shows. A workplace ban would in effect outlaw smoking in most public places, and similar laws have been introduced in Ireland, Norway, Canada and New Zealand.

Four out of five people support the idea of a ban on smoking in the workplace, the largest poll of public attitudes to prohibition shows. A workplace ban would in effect outlaw smoking in most public places, and similar laws have been introduced in Ireland, Norway, Canada and New Zealand.

The Government is under increased pressure to ban public smoking, despite the reluctance of John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, to introduce legislation. He infuriated health campaigners by suggesting that their backing for a ban was merely an "obsession of the learned middle classes".

He said smoking was one of the few pleasures available to poor people on sink estates. Ministers are concerned that a ban on smoking in public could lead to accusations of "nanny statism", so they have focused on pouring money into helping people to give up. The Government has introduced a new target of reducing smoking rates to 21 per cent by 2010.

But a Mori poll of more than 4,000 people, by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found 80 per cent supported a workplace ban.

The charity said Mr Reid's claims were contradicted, because 72 per cent of people in the lowest DE social class also backed a law on smoking in all enclosed work environments. Six out of 10 daily smokers also supported such legislation, the survey showed.

Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, said: "This poll is the most authoritative and largest conducted on the proposal for a smoke-free law. It shows overwhelming public support for such a law, after its success in Ireland, New York and elsewhere. The poll sends the Government a clear message. The public wants action to end secondhand smoke at work."

But while there is strong public support for a workplace ban in principle, people still want to be able to light up in pubs and clubs. Only 49 per cent want smoking banned in pubs and bars, and 47 per cent back prohibition in nightclubs.

Campaigners say smoking bans are effective, with Ireland reporting a 97 per cent compliance rate since the new law was introduced earlier this year. Some studies have concluded that a workplace ban in England could reduce smoking rates from the present 27 per of the population to 23 per cent.

Mr Reid remained unrepentant about his comments yesterday. In a speech to the Faculty of Public Health, he said: "I truly believe that if we were ... to try to proceed by uniform diktats rather than by carrying people with us, then our campaign will inevitably fall short, precisely because it will not reach those parts of our society where it is most needed.

"When we discuss smoking ... let us never fail to recognise that social deprivation, straitened circumstances or lack of affordable alternative social horizons make it more difficult for some of us to kick the habit than it might be for others in more conducive environments."

Campaigners both for and against a smoking ban have commissioned a plethora of polls in recent months in an attempt to prove support for their positions. Forest, the lobby group for smokers, says its survey of 10,000 people this year found only 24 per cent backed a ban in pubs and clubs.

The Government's chief medical officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, has publicly supported a workplace ban. Tony Blair appears to favour backdoor prohibition, by giving local authorities the power to impose local bans rather than opting for national legislation.

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