Letter to The Times from the president of the Royal College of Physicians and others calling for a smoking ban in the UK's pubs and bars.
Sir, We believe that the time has come for legislation to make public places smoke-free. Passive smoking causes an estimated 1,000 deaths in adults each year and causes asthma, lung infections and middle ear disease in children.
The great majority of people in the UK - 80 per cent - are now non-smokers. Most find cigarette smoke unpleasant and irritating and the majority of smokers and non-smokers alike would prefer public places to be smoke-free. All have a right to freedom from tobacco smoke pollution.
Most public places are somebody's workplace, and employers have a duty to protect employees from harm. Many workplaces are now smoke-free but in the hospitality industry smoke exposure is still very high and poses a particular risk.
The current system of self-regulation has failed to protect the majority of staff or customers. Most smokers want to quit smoking and smoke-free policies help them to do so.
If all workplaces that currently permit smoking in Britain became smoke-free, it is estimated that more than 300,000 people would quit smoking and in the longer term more than 150,000 lives would be saved.
The chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, in his annual report for 2002, called for consideration of a ban on smoking in public places. As doctors, seeing the daily consequences of smoking and passive smoking, we agree and call on the government to introduce legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.