DAMNING new evidence of the dangers of passive smoking was revealed today.
An increased risk of death, heart attacks and the slower healing of wounds have all been linked to second-hand smoke.
The findings have been welcomed by Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman and local health workers campaigning for action.
While the dangers of tobacco to the smoker have been well known since the 1950s, the negative effects of passive smoking have only been acknowledged relatively recently.
Research out today lends more weight to campaigners' calls for a public smoking ban to protect the health of non-smokers in the UK.
One study, published on BMJ.com, found a 15% higher risk of death among non- smokers who lived with a smoker, compared to those living in a smoke-free household. The study was based on the 1981 and 1996 censuses in New Zealand among those aged 45 to 74.
Another study on BMJ.com looked at the effects a public smoking ban had on the small US town of Helena.
A ban on smoking in public places and workplaces was imposed between June and November, 2002 - before the law was overturned in December that year.
The number of admissions to hospital fell by 40% among those living in Helena. The number fell from an average of 40 during the same months before the ban to 24 during the ban.
Mr Sheerman - a non-smoker - is leading Parliamentary moves to ban smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants.
He said: "I am a great campaigner for the protection of workers' health, which does mean a ban in places where people work, which leads to a ban on smoking in public places.
"The evidence is mounting, week by week, that smoking and passive smoking are dangerous."
Mr Sheerman has set up a poll on his website, where people can express their views on smoking in public.
Mrs Lorraine Bradbury, acting manager of the NHS Stop Smoking Service in Huddersfield, said the effects of passive smoking - now termed second-hand smoke - were well documented.
"It has been proved for a long time that it is dangerous for people breathing it in.
"The smoke that drifts from a lit cigarette is more concentrated and dangerous than the smoke that the smoker breathes in, because that is filtered."
She said the latest evidence showed that only 26% of the British population were smokers.
So almost three-quarters of the public, who were not smokers, were being disadvantaged by the minority.
"In New York, where a no-smoking ban has been in place, business has improved," added Mrs Bradbury.
"So the argument about a ban not being good for business does not wash."
To vote in Mr Sheerman's no-smoking poll log on to: www.barrysheerman. labour. co.uk