Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

Memorandum by BBC Radio 4: You and Yours (SP 58)

  You and Yours is BBC Radio 4's flagship consumer and social affairs programme broadcast between 12 noon and 1 pm every week day lunchtime.

  The programme has 3.181 million listeners per week. Their average age is 58. 54.6% of You and Yours listeners are female. 45.4% are male.

  The social grading of listeners breaks down as follows:

    —  A and B: 36%

    —  C1: 37%

    —  C2: 13%

    —  D and E: 12%.


  Between 9 November and 23 November, working in conjunction with Health Select Committee members, we gave our listeners the unique opportunity to contribute directly to the committee's inquiry into smoking in public places.

  We specifically asked our listeners to respond to the following question:

    "Do you feel the Government was right to stop short of a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places?"


  The response was overwhelming; within two weeks we received 1,055 emails, calls and letters. They break down into 4 categories:

    60% (626 listeners) called for a total ban.

    22% (229 listeners) were in favour of no ban.

    2% (12 listeners) thought the ban would be unworkable in psychiatric hospitals.

    18% (188 listeners) other.

    None of the emails, calls and letters supported the Government's plan to introduce a partial ban.


Passive smoking

  On the issue of the harmful effects of second hand smoke we received an email from Dr Barbara Hanak:

    "I am a GP. This morning I saw someone who works in a restaurant and is suffering from the effects of passive smoking. He gave up smoking due to respiratory problems in 1992, but continues to suffer and needs expensive medication due to exposure to smoke at work. He is not trained in any other work. Any further delay in implementing the ban will cause lives to be damaged or lost."

  We had many emails, calls and letters from asthma suffers. Some of them believed passive smoking was the cause of their asthma. The majority found that passive smoking exacerbated their asthmatic symptoms.

  Suzan Spence, a former Registered Nurse:

    "I suffer from Asthma and find passive smoking affects my health. As soon as I am near a cigarette my throat tightens and causes me discomfort, followed by coughing and occasional wheezing. As an ex-Registered General Nurse I have looked after people suffering from various health problems, from throat and lung cancer to leg amputations. I find it difficult to defend the rights of people who smoke in public places."

  Brian Frank Holbrook:

    "I suffer from asthma and can assure you that secondary inhalation does harm people, I can be ill for days after being in a smoky environment".

Division between rich and poor

  Julia Kilminster-Biggs, an NHS Public Health Manager from Bournemouth, and Deborah McCarthy, a stop smoking nurse specialist from Preston, both summed up many of the responses we had on the issue of the widening health inequalities gap.

  Julia Kilminister-Biggs:

    "I know six pubs serving a large council estate which already suffers from health inequalities. Two of these pubs serve food—both will probably stop serving food to get round the legislation. I would estimate that 40% of this estate is smokers. However, in more affluent areas of Bournemouth a smoking ban will be in place. Whose health is being protected?"

  Deborah McCarthy:

    "This policy will add to health inequalities between rich and poor as most pubs that don't serve food are situated within the poorest communities. Many of my clients inform me that if all public places were smoke free it would help support them quit smoking."

Knock of effects of a total ban

  Many of our emails in this category debated the issue of whether the comprehensive ban on smoking in public places would reduce levels smoking over all. One email on this subject came from Dr. Phil Barber a Consultant Respiratory Physician at the North West Lung Centre in South Manchester, also Director of the Heart and Lung Division in the South Manchester Trust and Chair of the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Lung Network:

    "I would invite anyone from your programme, or any interested politician, to visit the clinics and wards here to see for themselves the human misery caused by smoking. I really do think that you should be calling our politicians to account for resisting what the rest of the civilised world cannot wait to implement, bearing in mind that a complete ban on smoking in public places is by far the most effective way to reduce active smoking."

  This argument was also put forward in email from Dr Charles Buckley a GP in Gloucester:

    "A comprehensive ban on smoking in all public houses and clubs, not just those serving food, will have a major impact on helping my patients considering quitting and as importantly reduce the relapse rate of those who have quit".

Other professions affected

  The programme has also had responses from people who work in pubs, restaurants and private member's clubs. Many of those responses ask why their human rights are not considered as important as people who work in other public area.

  David Betts, Croupier:

    "I work in a Stanley casino in Margate, which as a private member's club will be exempt from the new protections against passive smoking. I deal roulette and card games and I am therefore in very close contact with a very smoky atmosphere. Why are other staff, such as casino workers, excluded from protection? I imagine customers would be amused if I wore an aqualung to work but I think my employers would not. If passive smoking is accepted as a risk, what measures are being put in place to assess the risk in my workplace?"


  You and Yours received a substantial number of emails from restaurant and bar proprietors calling for a complete ban on smoking in public places to ensure that all businesses could compete on a level playing-field.

  Malcolm Schooling, owner of bar and restaurant in Sheffield:

    "What a ridiculous idea it is to penalise pubs that serve fresh and healthy food by creating an uneven playing field."

  Marguerite Yeung:

    "As restaurant proprietors we trialled a smoking ban a couple of years ago but suffered a decrease in turnover. We found that if one person in a group smoked they would insist the whole group go somewhere else. I was left feeling that a total ban is the only workable solution".

  Edda Locke, owner of bar and restaurant in West Hampstead, London:

    "We recently tried to make our restaurant completely smoke free but had to reappraise two months later as we were 20% down on revenue. Unless there is a level playing field with a complete ban we will end up with smokers going to other establishments where they can smoke. Bars like ours which offer a continental style of drinking will be put out of business."


  Many of the 157 emails, calls and letters You and Yours received from listeners objected to, what they referred to as the Government's apparent obsession with a "nanny state".

  Andrew Tarling, a pub landlord of 14 years, raised concerns that the Government has taken away his right to make a commercial decision about the future of his business which is, he says, part of an industry that contributes £20 billion per year to the treasury.

    "I'm the landlord of The Half Moon Inn at Horsington and I have built up a successful business. I employ four fulltime staff and 12 part timers. All but one of my staff, the chef and about 50% of my customers smoke. The Government has taken away my right to run my business as I wish on the grounds of employee health. I would have thought that unemployment due to business failure would be somewhat more injurious to their well- being, because the loss of smokers will undoubtedly mean lay offs and pub closures through swathes of rural England."

  Andrew Quarrie, proprietor of Exmoor Vending Services:

    "I make my sole income from the operation of cigarette machines within licensed premises. This ban will completely undermine my business and probably render me, at best, unemployed or at worst, bankrupt. Why can't the proponents of this ban accept the installation and maintenance of a smoking room that is ventilated?"


  Other responses questioned the science behind a ban on smoking in public places.

  Dr Phil Button:

    "I have worked in the health service as a GP and an anaesthetist for 23 years. Bans have been supported by anti-smoking groups. These groups have driven their debate with the invention of `passive smoking'. They have used this tool to convince many that smoking is harmful to non-smokers. This is pure fiction as all the available scientific evidence fails to demonstrate any such phenomenon as `passive smoking'."

  Dr Ken Denson, Thame Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research Foundation:

    "The scientific evidence for any deleterious effect of ETS is wholly false. It is so tenuous and equivocal that similar evidence would not seriously considered. The mean exposure alone of the passive smoker is only 1/500th of that of the active smoker. The decision as to whether ETS is harmful to others should be made in a Court of Law."

  Peta Seel a listener to the programme in France expressed her concerns that one of her husband's last remaining pleasures was being eradicated:

    "My husband has smoked since he was 18. He is now 86 and one of his few enjoyments left to him in life is to go to a restaurant and enjoy a cigarette with his drink before and also with his coffee. When we visit England he will no longer go out."


  Finally, in this category of those opposed to the ban, we received an anonymous email from a secondary school teacher in Ipswich.

    "My wife and I both work in schools and are both smokers. We work in very stressful situation and rely on the odd cigarette, particularly when things get a touch hairy. Prior to the recent spate of health fascism our schools has smoking rooms, hidden away from sight, well-ventilated, a place to relieve stress without causing anyone any harm. Now we are obliged to go out onto the streets to smoke, in full view of the pupils, which is appalling. The resulting stress on smokers caused by the total bans urgently should be taken into account before sickness levels rise."


  You and Yours only received 12 responses on this particular section of the inquiry. All of the correspondents said that smoking should be allowed to continue on Psychiatric wards.

  Jessica Kate Paterson, former psychiatric patient:

    "Two years ago I was a patient in the acute ward of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital where just about everyone smoked. Our lives revolved around smoking, I developed some important friendships in the smoking room. Depriving depressed or otherwise distressed patients of their cigarettes would be problematic in the extreme."

  Nicola Salt, psychiatric nurse with 20 years' experience:

    "I do not relish the idea of telling certain challenging patients that they cannot smoke, nurses will be subject to more verbal and physical abuse. Although I would like to work in a smoke free environment I do not feel that the nursing staff should be implementing the ban on smoking."

  Dr Catherine Jones, psychiatrist:

    "If you are physically ill you can always refuse treatment if smoking is so important to you some of our patients can't make that decision. Many do smoke but should only be given the option to stop when they are mentally stable and back at home. Having what many see as their last freedom taken away leaving them even more anxious and angry will make staff less rather than more safe thus, resulting in a real risk of assault."

You and Yours Feedback

  This particular programme promoted one of the largest responses we have ever had on Call You and Yours. Listeners seemed keen to be involved with a radio programme which could potentially influence Government policy.

September 2005

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