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“Half-pregnant” occupational health policy on environmental tobacco smoke
  1. S Chapman
  1. Correspondence to:
 Prof. S Chapman
 School of Public Health, University of Sydney 2006, Australia; simonchapmanhealth.usyd.edu.au

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Comment on the editorial by Edwards et al

Smoking restrictions have been progressively introduced in enclosed public spaces in a growing number of nations as the evidence of the harms of passive smoking accumulates and public preference for smoke free air grows. Bans on smoking on public transport and airlines, and in cinemas, theatres, and elevators have long been taken for granted in many nations. Indoor workplaces are also increasingly becoming smoke free by virtue of either explicit legislation or management policy. Yet throughout the world, hospitality venues—particularly pubs and bars—have staunchly resisted this momentum. The editorial by Edwards et al in this issue1 describes a depressingly typical “Groundhog Day” scenario to anyone monitoring global developments in this area.

The situation today is an object lesson in “half-pregnant” policy and in how public health law should not be made. Those least exposed—the relatively transient patrons of restaurants, public transport, cinemas, and shopping malls—have often full legal protection from passive smoking. Yet those most exposed—bar and casino staff—are the least protected. In effect, government inaction says to them “we’ll protect citizens from passive smoking even when their exposure is brief. But notwithstanding your unparalleled high exposure, we’ll offer you no protection”. It is unimaginable that workplace health protection could proceed in such a fashion in relation to toxic fumes, noise, or asbestos.

The neo-Dickensian values inherent in this occupational health practice are being championed by two interest groups whose contempt for the commonly non-unionised casual …

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