Firms face action over smokers

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Employers will be forced to ban smoking from the workplace or face legal action following yesterday's revelations on the dangerous effects of passive smoking, it was claimed yesterday.

The news that families of smokers are 25 per cent more likely to suffer cancer than of non-smokers - highlighted in The Independent - sent ripples of concern through the worlds of law and employment.

The potential impact of the new evidence was underlined when a convicted murderer said he was considering legal action against the Prison Service because he is being made to share a cell with a smoker.

Employment specialists believe no-smoking policies will now spread throughout industry to counter fears of future legal action over passive smoking, and the Health and Safety Executive said it would be looking at its guidelines to companies.

Specialists in employment law said non-smokers had increasing rights which were leading to claims for constructive dismissal as well as for compensation.

Mary Stacey, an employment rights specialist at Thompson's solicitors, said: "The rights of non-smokers are on the increase. People who don't smoke can expect to work in smoke-free environments.

"It is not correct to say that the rights of smokers are equal to the rights of non-smokers. Today's reports add weight to the dangerous side effects of passive smoking."

Shona Newmark, an employment law partner at legal giant Baker and McKenzie, said pubs should cover themselves by specifically warning new staff of the dangers of breathing in smoke from customers' cigarettes.

The British Medical Association renewed its call for a ban on smoking in public places.

The prisoner considering legal action is Alex Deas, who has served 14 years of a life sentence. He claims the smoke is damaging his health and wants to be moved to a single cell at Winston Green or to share with a non-smoker.

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