Firms face legal threat over passive smoking

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Pubs, clubs and restaurants are being warned that they face the threat of compensation claims from workers whose health is damaged by passive smoking.

Pubs, clubs and restaurants are being warned that they face the threat of compensation claims from workers whose health is damaged by passive smoking.

The anti-smoking group ASH is sending registered letters today to 170 leading firms in the hospitality trade, making clear that legal action will be taken on behalf of staff made ill by inhaling tobacco smoke while at work. The group said it would be working with the law firm Thompsons on a campaign to urge affected workers to seek compensation.

Fewer than 30 pubs in the UK are smoke-free, and most restaurants allow their customers to smoke, ASH says. The Government has been urging employers to improve conditions for non-smokers, such as segregating smokers into special areas and fitting ventilation systems. But ASH said these measures would not properly protect vulnerable workers from inhaling "second-hand smoke" and called for all workplaces to be smoke-free. Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, said: "The time is long past when employers should have known that second-hand smoke is bad for their staff.

"To make quite sure that they understand this crucial point, and the rising threat of legal actions that they now face, we have sent all the UK hospitality trade's leading employers a formal registered letter.

"This spells out the science on second-hand smoke, and the law as we and Thompsons understand it.

"If employers will not act and if the Government still refuses to legislate, then the issue will be forced to a head in the courts."

John Hall, a solicitor at Thompsons, added: "Smoking in the workplace should have ended years ago. If employers continue to do nothing then they will leave themselves wide open to compensation claims and they will have no one to blame but themselves."