World Health Org. Calls for Smoking Bans

Noting that “[s]cientific evidence has firmly established that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke,” the World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging its member governments to enact legislation requiring all indoor workplaces and public places to be smoke-free.

In its document “Policy Recommendations on Protection From Exposure to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke” – which the organization issue May 29 to coincide with World No Tobacco Day (May 31) – WHO asserts that establishing 100 percent smoke-free environments “is the only effective strategy” to protect workers and the general public from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure. According to WHO, smoking areas and ventilation “do not reduce exposure to a safe level of risk and are not recommended.”

“The evidence is clear: There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said. “Many countries have already taken action. I urge all countries that have not yet done so to take this immediate and important step to protect the health of all by passing laws requiring all indoor workplaces and public places to be 100 percent smoke-free.”

Countries Have Had Success With Smoking Bans

According to WHO, “several countries and hundreds of subnational and local jurisdictions have successfully implemented” smoking bans for workplaces and indoor public places “without encountering significant challenges in enforcement.” Evidence suggests that these smoking bans not only are enforceable but also “are popular and become more so during implementation.”

“These laws have no negative impact – and often have a positive one – on businesses in the hospitality sector and elsewhere,” WHO asserts. “Their outcomes – an immediate reduction in heart attacks and respiratory problems – also have a positive impact on health.”

"Passing Smoke-Free Legislation Is Not Enough"

In urging its member governments to ban smoking in indoor workplaces and public places, WHO cautions that “[v]oluntary policies are not an acceptable response to protection.”

“Laws should ensure universal and equal protection for all,” WHO says in the document. “ ... Under some circumstances, the principle of universal, effective protection may require specific quasi-outdoor and outdoor workplaces to be smoke-free.”

The organization also emphasizes the importance of enforcing smoking bans once they have been instituted.

“Passing smoke-free legislation is not enough,” WHO says in its policy recommendations. “Its proper implementation and adequate enforcement require relatively small but critical efforts and means.”

WHO points out that smoking bans increase the likelihood that smokers and nonsmokers “will voluntarily make their homes smoke-free.” Consequently, the organization calls on its member governments to implement educational strategies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in the home.

To download the WHO policy recommendations, click here.

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