How Secondhand Smoke Affects Your Health

In Dark Corners.
smoking health affects
Image by Neil. Moralee
A smoking ban in England, making it illegal to smoke in all enclosed work places in England, came into force on 1 July 2007 as a consequence of the Health Act 2006. Similar bans had already been introduced by the rest of the United Kingdom before this — Scotland on 26 March 2006, Wales on 2 April 2007 and Northern Ireland on 30 April 2007.

While the ban affects almost all indoor workplaces, some exemptions were provided:

bus shelters (provided they are less than 50% covered, some councils however assume no exemptions apply),
phone boxes (but box types K2 to K8 are included, because they are completely sealed)
hotel rooms (if they are designated as smoking rooms)
nursing homes
offshore oil rigs (only in designated rooms)
psychiatric wards (until 1 July 2008)
stages/television sets (if needed for the performance, except in rehearsals)
specialist tobacconists in relation to sampling cigars and/or pipe tobacco.

An exemption was also theoretically possible within the Palace of Westminster, as for other Royal Palaces, although members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords agreed to observe the spirit of the ban and restrict any smoking within the grounds of Parliament to four designated outside areas.

Smoking is permitted in a private residence, although not in areas used as a shared work-space. In flats with communal entrances or shared corridors, these must be smoke-free.

Although prisons and hotel rooms are provisionally exempt, university halls of residence presented some dilemmas in practice as regards defining what is public and private. Several universities have imposed a blanket ban on smoking including halls of residence.

Secondhand smoke, or “passive smoking” as it’s also known, has become an increasingly big issue in today’s society. According to medical research, secondhand smoke is linked to tobacco-related diseases, and as we place a higher premium on an individual’s responsibility to the health of those around him, we have become more and more to discourage smoking in public.

What Is Secondhand Smoke?

“Secondhand smoke” is a term that describes the effects of enough smoke being added to a room that it’s impossible for non-smokers to avoid inhaling the smoke themselves. These people become “secondhand smokers” in that they’re breathing the fumes that smokers themselves have exhaled, only without the active decision to smoke that has been made by the smokers themselves. According to scientific studies, passive smoking leads to diseases, disabilities, and fatalities comparable to those caused by actual smoking.

Secondhand smoke has long been linked to illness and injury, and since the 1970s, tobacco producers have been concerned about the possible connection. The concern was, and is, that the potential for disease amongst nonsmokers would be enough to rally public support against smoking. Unsurprisingly, the now-confirmed fear of injury to nonsmokers has been enough to pass anti-smoking legislation which has banned smoking in confined public places such as bars, clubs, and restaurants, as well as office buildings. Of particular concern to anti-smoking activists is the health effects on waiters and waitresses in restaurants and bars, who have to work in unsafe environments every day.

Legal Recourse

Because of the many negative effects public smoking has on the health of nonsmokers, it’s not surprising that there have been lawsuits against employers and the tobacco industry for indirectly causing the injuries sustained by passive smokers. If you have been the victim of disease and disability as a result of secondhand smoking, you may be entitled to financial compensation. While every case is different, you may want to consider discussing your circumstances with a personal injury lawyer, who can represent your case in court.

It is especially worth considering if you contracted passive smoking-related diseases as a result of your job, as your lawsuit could positively affect other workers as well. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees, and they could be in violation of laws.

For more information about your legal options for secondhand smoke diseases, visit