Living with a smoker raises death risk

Last updated at 17:28 05 April 2004

People who have never smoked but live with smokers have a 15 per cent greater risk of premature death than those in smoke-free households, a study has revealed.

It shows exposure to smoke in the home can dramatically increase the chances of developing a fatal illness.

The findings - published yesterday on the online edition of the British Medical Journal - led to new demands for a ban on smoking in public.

Passive smoking fears

'The results from this study add to the weight of evidence of harm caused by passive smoking and support steps to reduce exposure to other people's smoke - in the home and in other settings,' said the report's author, Dr Tony Blakely.

The study, conducted at the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in New Zealand, studied data involving householders aged between 45 and 74 at the time of the 1981 and 1996 censuses.

They compared the number of deaths in the three years after each census amongst those who had never smoked but lived with at least one smoker and those who had never smoked and had a smoke-free home.

The figures showed that those who had been exposed to passive cigarette fumes in their own home were 15 per cent more likely to die during those three years than those who were not.

Passive smoking kills an estimated 1,000 Britons every year.

New demands for ban

Yesterday, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medication Association, said the Government should 'show some courage' and ban smoking in public places. She added: 'The evidence is clear - it's time for action. If Ireland can do it, why not us?'

Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-smoking group ASH, said: 'The case for a new law to end smoking in the workplace and in enclosed public places is now overwhelming.'

The chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson has already called for an outright ban in all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the issue would be addressed in a White Paper on public health to be published this summer.

He added: 'We recognise the danger of second-hand smoke and we are trying to encourage smoke-free areas in public places with voluntary schemes.'

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