Second-hand tobacco smoke is a major cause of heart disease and lung cancer amongst non-smokers who work with people who smoke. It is estimated that around 700 workers a year die as a direct result of second-hand tobacco smoke in their workplace.
Second-hand smoke is also responsible for many thousands of episodes of illness. For example, Asthma UK reports that it is the second most common asthma trigger in the workplace. 82% of people with asthma say that other people's smoke worsens their asthma and 1 in 5 people with asthma feel excluded from parts of their workplace where people smoke.
Since 2007 all parts of the UK have had some form of ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces and public places. The ban has been welcomed by the vast majority of people and compliance has been high.
Around 80% of people asked have indicated support for the restrictions.
It has also begun to have an effect on the health of those who are no longer exposed to tobacco smoke. There has been a marked fall in hospital admissions due to heart problems. Research from Scotland reported 17% decrease in heart attack admissions in the year after its ban.
However around a quarter of workers still smoke, although not necessarily in the workplace. That is why, despite the ban, smoking is an important workplace issue that can cause problems for union workplace representatives.
This guide explains what the regulations say, what they mean to workers and employers, and what steps safety representatives and stewards should take now to ensure that employers policies comply with the law but are also proportional and practical.
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