Protection from exposure to SHS

Exposure to SHS is almost entirely preventable. Through Article 8 of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) and a Council Recommendation, respectively, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission have declared that people have the right to be protected from SHS in public and indicated how this can be achieved. They have pointed out that they recognise the harmful effects of SHS, that comprehensive legislation is needed to prevent harm and that since there is no safe level of exposure (SHS is a Group 1 carcinogen according to the WHO), mechanical ventilation solutions are unacceptable. Many countries have now enacted comprehensive legislation since Ireland introduced its smoke-free law in March 2004. These countries include Norway, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Italy and France have laws that, in practice, are almost equivalent to comprehensive smoke-free legislation. Spain, Portugal and Greece initially introduced inadequate laws that did not meet the FCTC standard; Greece (2010) and Spain (2011) have already amended their laws, having shown that partial bans did not work.

Current smoke-free laws protect adults in the workplace and entertainment venues. Although children may benefit from smoke-free legislation in general, the laws do not prevent exposure in utero, in the home or in private vehicles. Legislation to protect children is needed and would be feasible in private vehicles, where we know levels of toxins can be very high in the presence of smoking, and that this causes disease in exposed children. Playgrounds in public parks are also increasingly smoke-free in Ireland and in the USA. Targeted smoking cessation services to help pregnant women stop smoking are also needed. Legislation to achieve smoke-free private housing may not be feasible or considered appropriate at present, but education and strong encouragement and advice should be offered. Legislation in municipal housing and in apartment blocks may well become commonplace if voluntary approaches fail.

In conclusion, SHS causes death and disability. It can be prevented, and health benefits due to the introduction of smoke-free legislation in children and adults have been widely reported.

See the entire Passive smoking Chapter