Fall in Europeans’ exposure to second-hand smoke

The number of Europeans exposed to second hand smoke dropped from 46% in 2009 to 28% in 2012, according to a Commission report

Protection from second hand smoke has improved considerably in the EU, but efforts still need to be increased to protect public health.

That is the message of a report published on Friday (February 22) by the European Commission, which found that 28% of Europeans were exposed to second hand smoke in bars in 2012, showing a fall from 46% in 2009.

There has been a fall in the number of Europeans being exposed to second-hand smoke, according to a report

There has been a fall in the number of Europeans exposed to second-hand smoke, according to a Commission report

Based on self-reporting data by 27 member states, the ‘Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on Smoke-free Environments (2009/C 296/02)’, suggests that the economic impact of smoke-free legislation in Europe has been limited. It does also state, however, that ‘evidence from developed countries suggests that smoke-free laws have a net positive effect on businesses’.

However, although all member states have adopted measures to protect against second hand smoke exposure, the report notes that some member states are ‘lagging behind’ in terms of comprehensive laws and enforcement to protect public health.

Around half of member states have adopted or strengthened smoke-free measures since 2009, with various national measures differing considerably in size and scope. In particular, the report cites Belgium, Spain and Poland as countries in which the adoption of comprehensive legislation led to ‘very significant’ drops in exposure rates within a short period of time.

The UK is noted in the report as being one of a number of member states with the most ‘far-reaching’ smoke free legislation, as smoking is completely banned in enclosed workplaces and public places such as bars and restaurants.

Immediate effects of smoke-free legislation include a reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and improvements in respiratory health, the report found.

‘long way to go’

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for health and consumer policy, said: “The report published today shows that member states have made steady progress in protecting their citizens from second hand smoke.”

He added: “Citizen’s exposure to smoking, however, still varies widely across the EU and there is a long way to go to make ‘Smoke Free Europe’ a reality. I urge all member states to step up their efforts to enforce legislation, commend those who have adopted ambitious smoke free laws and urge the others to follow-suit.”

The 2009 Council Recommendation on Smoke-free Environments (2009/C 296/02) called upon governments to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport no later than November 2012. During the same year, an EU survey also showed that a majority of Europeans were supportive smoke-free legislation.

This followed the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which called on all of its signatories (176 parties) to provide effective ‘protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places, and, as appropriate, other public places’. Guidelines were adopted in 2007 to help parties meet their obligations.

Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is a wide-spread source of mortality, morbidity and disability, according to the EU. Conservative EU estimates suggest more than 70,000 adults in the EU died due to exposure to tobacco smoke in 2002, many of them non-smokers or employees exposed to second hand smoking at their workplaces.

The Scottish Government passed a ban this month (February 7) on the display of tobacco products in large shops and vending machines that will come into force in April (see story), while recent research also showed a 12.3% drop in child asthma hospital admissions in England since the smoking ban came into force in 2007 (see story).

The Commission’s report is available to download on its website.


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