WMA regrets Maltese Government's decision to delay no smoking ban


The President of the World Medical Association has regretted the decision by the Government of Malta to postpone the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places.
Speaking today at a meeting of the Medical Association of Malta - the day when the ban was due to be introduced - Dr James Appleyard said that eighty per cent of the Maltese people agreed with such a ban and the Government should not be diverted from its task by the self serving lobbying of the tobacco manufacturers and related services industries.
'I congratulate the Maltese Government on its commitment to smoke free public places, but I regret its decision to delay the ban', said Dr Appleyard. 'By introducing such a ban, it would be setting an example for Britain to follow. Already Ireland, Finland, S Africa, Thailand, Canada, Australia and the US have introduced similar laws.
'Governments throughout the world should introduce firm measures to ban tobacco smoke in public places and work places in the interest of the health and economic wellbeing of their citizens. Tobacco smoke is the only substance known to cause cancer that is not regulated in the workplace.
'Tobacco smoke contains more than fifty toxic substances known to cause cancer. In addition, it includes carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and ammonia.
'The vast majority - eighty five per cent - of "second hand" smoke is invisible and odourless. The constituents or their derivatives can be detected in hair, blood, saliva and urine. There is no safe level below which no adverse effects are seen. Conventional ventilation systems and air cleaning systems are expensive and do not provide effective protection. Because only the visible particulate matter, and not the harmful gases, is filtered, a false impression of safety is given.'
Dr Appleyard said that in the United States, a large study showed that, while nearly half of non smokers claimed not to have been exposed to second hand smoke, their blood contained metabolites of nicotine from cigarettes.
The health hazards of passive smoking were well known. In adults there was conclusive evidence that passive smoking caused lung cancer, coronary heart disease and exacerbated asthma attacks. There was also substantial evidence that it caused strokes.
One study had found that among non smokers married to a smoker, the risk of stroke was doubled.
In children, there was conclusive evidence that passive smoking caused cot death, ear and respiratory infections and was likely to be associated with premature births and low birth weight infants
Dr Appleyard added: 'For the tobacco manufacturers and the related service industries to promote an unsafe environment causing such a burden of disease on an unwilling population amounts to nothing short of self serving and cynical exploitation
'Smoking in the workplace is of great concern. Workers in restaurants are exposed to cigarette smoke about twice that of office workers and bar workers up to six times. The economic costs to the employer come from increased time off work through illness and reduced productivity. Employers also have to bear the indirect costs of higher maintenance, cleaning cots, greater risk of fire damage, explosion and accidents, and higher fire insurance premiums.
'The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recognizes that second hand cigarette smoke is a health hazard and commits governments to take appropriate action for the protection of non smokers.
'The Maltese Government should not delay in responding to the wishes of the Maltese people to ban smoking in public places - to protect their health and the health of their children; to save money by preventing the burden of long term disease and to make Malta the healthiest island in the Mediterranean where holidaymakers can come for fun, rest and recreation in a safe environment.'