The alarming truth about passive smoking

According to a recent report nearly eighty-thousand Europeans a year die as a result of passive smoking. The study by a number of leading cancer groups says the death toll is particularly high among workers in restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs. In the EU only Ireland, Italy, Malta and Sweden have banned smoking in enclosed public areas and workplaces. No Central European country has yet gone so far. Deborah Arnett is Director of ASH, the British anti-smoking lobby - she told Austrian Radio's Steve Crilley all about passive smoking.

"Well, the smoke that you find in a room is the side-stream smoke from a cigarette, which is created between puffs. It's more toxic than the smoke inhaled and exhaled by a smoker because the cigarette being held in the hand or smouldering in an ashtray burns at a lower temperature and releases a different combination of chemicals with larger amounts of toxic constituents. And it contains something like four thousand chemicals including many air pollutants and some wastes that are regarded as hazardous, and carcinogenic substances, chemical poisons...all sorts of really nasty substances."

The smoker is inhaling the smoke through a filter but everybody else isn't.

"That's right, everyone else is getting the smoke from the other end of the cigarette, which is unfiltered."

Are some people more sensitive to others to passive smoking or is the danger there for everyone?

"The danger is there for everyone but obviously but if you have asthma or other sort of respiratory problems like bronchitis, then you're much more sensitive to tobacco smoke. But the risks from heart disease or lung cancer are there for everyone."

Different EU countries have introduced different rules. Some, like Ireland, have banned smoking entirely in public spaces. The rules in Austria don't appear to be so strict. Can anything be done on an EU level if a non-smoker in a place like Austria isn't satisfied with the rules here?

"There are some EU-wide rules. For example, if you are pregnant, then there is a Council directive, which means that your employer has to protect you from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. But basically, if Austrians want to protect themselves from tobacco smoke, then they need to put pressure on their government to bring in legislation and the more the people protest about it, such as ring up radio stations or write to the newspaper, the more it is likely that the government will do something about it."

So legislation happens on smoking on a national level. Any thoughts on the future about the EU taking things more seriously?

"In our experience, it is going to be very difficult to take it forward at an EU level, which is why in England and Wales we pushed our government to take action and I would advise Austrians who care about this issue to push their governments to take action. Although, there is a green paper being produced by the Directorate on Health and Consumer Protection. So, there is a possibility of something happening but it may take a number of years and it may be quicker for Austrians to take action directly at home through their own legislation."