Since the ban on smoking in all public places came into effect in 2007 significantly fewer people are now exposed to the dangers of passive smoking. There are still industries where smoking is allowed in various areas and while instances of illnesses brought on by passive smoking will fall in the future, many people are still paying the price for exposure in years gone by.
If you believe that exposure to passive smoking has brought on, or worsened, a medical condition then you may well have a case for compensation.
What Is Passive Smoking?
Sometimes referred to as second-hand smoking, secondary smoking or simply passive smoking, it is the inhalation of smoke from tobacco cigarettes. We know from the vast number of medical research undertaken over the last 50 years that cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals. Among the array of specific cigarette ingredients are compounds such as nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen, arsenic, cyanide, and DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Such is the array of different chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke that some of the “400 other toxins” are still unknown!
The introduction of “smoking areas” in establishments such as pubs and clubs has helped the situation although there will continue to be constant friction between smokers and non-smokers. While there is no doubt that passive smoking results in less exposure to the chemical intake experienced by those smoking the cigarettes, we know that passive smoking can lead to various medical conditions.
Illnesses Associated With Passive Smoking
There is still ongoing research into the number of illnesses directly associated with passive smoking but as of today we know they include:
- Eye and nasal irritation.
- Sore throat.
- Increased risk of heart disease.
- Increased risk of lung cancer.
- Increased risk of suffering a stroke.
- Increased risk of COPD.
- Increased risk of other breathing problems.
One of the main issues is the fact that second-hand smoke impacts the thickness of the blood making it “stickier” which can increase the risk of blood clotting which is connected with:
- Heart attacks.
- Heart failure.
Exposure to second-hand smoke can also cause complications in pregnancy and even after the birth of a child. There are also specific risks to children which include:
- Breathing problems.
- Illnesses and infections.
- Reduce lung capacity.
- Wheezing and asthma.
- Sudden and unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
- Ear, nose and throat problems.
Those who follow the issue of passive smoking will be well aware that there is now a movement which has resulted in a ban on smoking in vehicles where children are present. Sceptics would ask the question, if smoking is bad for your health, then why is it not banned completely?
Passive Smoking In The Workplace
In order to pursue a claim for passive smoking compensation as a consequence of a medical condition(s) brought on by exposure to cigarette smoke, there is a need to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties. This is where an employer’s duty of care comes into play, a legally binding arrangement between the authorities, employers and employees.
In simple terms, an employer has a legal liability to ensure the safe well-being of all employees at all times. This does not just relate to machinery, safety equipment, etc but also takes in exposure to passive smoking.
There are still some areas of the UK where smoking is still permitted such as:
- Residential homes.
- Care homes.
So, as a consequence employers need to take action to ensure that care assistants, nurses and prison officers are not exposed to secondary smoking. In the event that negligence can be proven, where an individual has developed a medical condition as a consequence of passive smoking, there may well be potential to claim passive smoking compensation.
The legal window of opportunity to claim compensation for issues brought on by passive smoking involves a three-year timespan. The clock begins at the date of the particular incident which brought about a diagnosis or the date when the claimant was made aware of an illness that is proved to be connected to passive smoking.
Proving Negligence In Passive Smoking Compensation Claims
In order to pursue any passive smoking compensation claim the claimant will need to prove negligence by the defendant(s). The crux of any case will be strongly connected with medical opinion and medical examinations of the claimant. Sometimes those who have suffered various illnesses as a consequence of passive smoking do not even realise they may be eligible to claim compensation. Aside from the headline grabbing conditions such as heart and breathing difficulties, exposure to the toxins and chemicals in tobacco smoke is known to weaken the immune system. This is closely connected to more general condition such as throat and nasal issues, with victims often more susceptible to the common cold, but victims may still be eligible for compensation.
While there is a three-year window of opportunity to claim passive smoking compensation it is strongly advisable to take action as soon as you are aware of the issue. This ensures that your version of events, background information and, where possible, witness statements are as accurate as possible. The longer you leave it the more blurred the details tend to become which, even in a relatively open and shut compensation case, can open windows of opportunity for defendants to exploit. Once you have your medical information, details surrounding your working environment and any other supporting evidence, you should contact personal injury solicitor.
Is A Personal Injury Solicitor Necessary?
Even though there is still some ambiguity regarding some secondary smoking related illnesses, there are still many specific illnesses and conditions which have been directly linked to passive smoking. A personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you on the strength of your case and the appropriate action to take. In the event of a strong case, you will likely be offered a No Win No Fee arrangement with upfront legal fees replaced by an agreement to split any compensation between both parties.
No Win No Fee arrangements make it possible for those who have insufficient funds to cover legal fees to pursue valid passive smoking compensation claims. It also ensures that third parties, whether employers or other parties, can be held to account for their negligence and hopefully prompt them to make changes going forward.
The vast majority of claims where negligence is fairly obvious are often settled out of court to save on time and legal fees. Where one or more parties are involved, known as shared negligence, or an individual party is contesting negligence, these cases will go before the courts.
Even though electronic cigarettes have been around for decades, it is only since the turn-of-the-century that modern e-cigarettes have become mass market. Research into the impact of electronic cigarette “vapour” on smokers and those in their vicinity is still ongoing and will take many years to conclude. Even the most ardent of critics acknowledge that electronic cigarettes are far less harmful than their tobacco cigarette counterparts. However, this does not mean to say there are not potential issues with regards to secondary smoking.
It is highly likely that passive smoking as a consequence of electronic cigarette vapour will be challenged in the courts at some point. As it stands, there is probably not sufficient medical evidence to prove one way or the other, but this is an issue that does perhaps need to be addressed.
If you’ve suffered illness because of passive smoking contact us today and we can determine if you have a case to claim for passive smoking compensation.