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Smoking in Public Places

The UNISON Scotland Submission

To the Scottish Executive's Consultation on "Smoking in Public Places"

September 2004


This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive's consultation paper on the ‘Smoking in Public Places'.

UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing around 150,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland.

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation exercise.

Comments on consultation method

UNISON Scotland has a concern over the validity of the methodology chosen by the Scottish Executive for this consultation. Instead of looking for a more qualitative approach whereby detailed responses on the merits or otherwise of smoking in public places can be addressed, the Executive seem to have gone down a primarily quantitative approach which seems more akin to a snapshot survey.

There is a concern that despite the Deputy Minister stating in the foreword to the consultation paper that they want to look behind the numbers there is a danger that the Executive may consider their response according to the number of responses received. Therefore it is open for any organisation to obtain and distribute multiple copies of the response form to their members in order to highlight or reinforce their particular view.

Consultation Questions

Each of the questions posed in the consultation paper is reproduced below along with the UNISON Scotland response.

1. Having considered the health risks associated with passive smoking, do you think that further action needs to be taken to reduce people's exposure to second hand smoke?

Yes further action needs to be taken. This is highlighted by a recent report from the National Cancer Institute which has highlighted that second hand smoke/ Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is more toxic than car exhausts. In the USA ETS has been classed as a Class A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA - the same class as asbestos.

The scientific evidence on the ill effects of ETS to health is increasing everyday; it's time for the Scottish Executive to take a positive stance on this issue.

2. Would you support a law that would make enclosed public places smoke-free? (Public places include workplaces and transport)

Yes, UNISON Scotland would support such legislation. Environmental Tobacco Smoke can linger in an enclosed space for a number of days before it is fully dissipated. Therefore the only serious way to stop the damage caused by ETS is to ban it completely from all enclosed places.

3. If a law was introduced, do you think there should be any exemptions to it? (i.e. any enclosed public places where smoking should be allowed)

There should be no exemptions from any legislation on smoking in enclosed public places, although there will have to be a clear definition on what is regarded as an enclosed public place.

However UNISON Scotland believes that it is important for the Scottish Executive to clearly define what is meant by a ‘public place'. For instance would this be restricted to premises requiring a public license certificate of any kind? Such a clear definition may also assist with the issue of enforcement and penalty.

4. If we decide not to introduce a law, what more could be done to encourage individual businesses to take voluntary action to become smoke-free or to provide more smoke-free provision?

If the Scottish Executive do not introduce legislation then they are failing to act on the best medical evidence available that passive smoking harms people's health. There was positive public reactions to a Private Members Bill on the same issue (Stewart Maxwell's Prohibition on Smoking in Regulated Areas). One option could be to amend this bill to include all enclosed public places.

In the introduction to this consultation the Executive states that 7 out of 10 pubs still allow smoking throughout their premises. This indicates that voluntary action has not worked. There is also a danger that some issues such as segregating smokers from others or no smoking within a certain distance from the bar etc could appear to work. In both cases staff and non-smokers may still be affected by ETS as the gas emitted from cigarettes will tend to dissipate around a building until it reaches equilibrium (i.e. the physical law of diffusion). In other words the smoke will spread out until it covers the enclosed area evenly.

5. What else could we do to reduce people's exposure to second-hand smoke?

The only sure-fire way to reduce people's exposure to second hand smoke is to reduce the number of people smoking, especially in enclosed public places. Therefore health programmes designed to help people give up smoking should be a priority. Any resources spent in this area will be more than amply rewarded in the long term with a reduction in the smoking related illnesses which cost the NHS in Scotland around £200 million per annum including around 13,000 deaths and 33,500 hospital admissions.

6. Please let us know about any other views you have about smoking in public places.

UNISON Scotland support a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces not just in terms of the general health benefits to non-smokers but also with regard to the implications on worker health and safety. With this in mind UNISON Scotland believes that there should be further guidelines for staff who have to work in service users homes (home carers and others) regarding their health and safety at work from ETS.

For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835
e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk


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