Smoking ban 'could see thousands quit'

A PRESSURE group has claimed as many as 74,000 smokers in East Anglia could quit within a year if a total ban on smoking in public places is introduced.

A PRESSURE group has claimed as many as 74,000 smokers in East Anglia could quit within a year if a total ban on smoking in public places is introduced.

Asthma UK and Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) have released figures highlighting the extent of the issue in the region.

They show 32% of adults have a nicotine addiction in Ipswich, 31% in Forest Heath and 28% in Colchester.

In St Edmundsbury the figure is 27%, in Tendring it is 25% and in Babergh and Mid Suffolk it is 24%. Suffolk Coastal has one of the lowest totals in region, with 23% of smokers among the district's population.

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The statistics released show more than one in four adults in the East of England region smokes, with Norwich having the highest total in the region and one of the highest in England at 37%.

But Asthma UK and Ash estimate the introduction of a total ban on smoking in public places could help 74,000 of these East of England smokers and 700,000 nationwide to give up within a year.

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And they are urging to MPs to vote for a total ban on smoking in public places, claiming it would be the most effective way of safeguarding public health.

MPs will have a free vote on whether to make all workplaces and public spaces, including pubs and clubs, smoke-free when the Government's Health Bill is voted on in the next few weeks.

Asthma UK is particularly concerned about the effects of second hand smoke on people with asthma. Donna Covey, chief executive of the organisation, said: “There are 373,000 people with asthma in the East of England who tell us that other people's smoke makes their asthma worse. That's 373,000 people who are forced to miss out on going to pubs, clubs and restaurants for fear of a potentially fatal asthma attack being triggered by someone else's cigarette smoke. It is totally unacceptable that their health and their quality of life are affected in this way.”

Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH, added: “We are now within sight of the most important advance for public health in many decades.

“A comprehensive smoke-free law would protect workers and members of the public from the health damage caused by other people's smoke. It would also encourage many smokers to quit for good. Rarely has such a simple piece of legislation offered such a large and clear benefit. We hope very much that MPs will back the findings of the Health Select Committee and vote overwhelmingly for smoke-free legislation.”

Earlier this month the Government bowed to pressure from backbenchers in scrapping an exemption to pubs who do not serve food. There could be a total ban in England by next summer.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “This Bill is a huge step forward for public health and we know that it will reduce deaths from cancer, heart disease and other smoking related diseases.

“We have been listening to a lot of different views on restricting smoking in public places inside and outside Parliament and the Government now intends to allow a free vote on an amendment to the Bill.

“We said from the start we would review the proposed legislation within three years of implementation.

“We are offering MPs the opportunity to extend the restrictions now.”

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