Pressure mounted today for a ban on smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars as researchers revealed that the health risks of second-hand smoke were twice as bad as previously thought.
The Government also revealed today that it was considering a ban as part of its election manifesto, and the British Medical Association (BMA) ramped up its demands for smoke-free workplaces at its annual conference.
Researchers at St George's Hospital Medical School and the Royal Free hospital in London reported that passive smoking increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50-60%.
Earlier studies put the risk at 25-30% but the researches, who studied 4,792 men over 20 years, said these had focused on people living with smokers and had not considered exposure at work and elsewhere.
Delegates at the BMA conference heard extracts from letters written by 4,500 doctors who have dealt with the effects of passive smoking. The letters will be handed to Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday.
The BMA wants the Government to follow the example of the Irish Republic and introduce legislation to ban workplace smoking "with immediate effect".
It claims that passive smoking kills more than 1,000 people each year and that about three million workers are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Some 1.3 million workers, it adds, are exposed for 75% of the time.
The Labour Party confirmed that it was considering proposals from its members to ban smoking in public places as part of its manifesto for the next election, which must be held by June 2006 at the latest.
A spokeswoman said no final decision will be made before the party's annual conference in September. Options include a nationwide ban, or allowing local authorities to set their own rules.
by Angela Frewin
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