A LEADING cancer specialist has urged North-East employers to be more aware of passive smoking in the workplace.

Dr Graham Dark, a medical oncologist at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, made his plea after a survey revealed that many employees still fear they may be exposed to danger.

The research by a group of charities showed that more than half of Britain's employees are concerned about the risk of developing lung cancer from passive smoking at work.

Following the survey a Clean The Air campaign was launched to reduce workers' exposure to passive smoking.

Dr Dark said: "Employers need to survey their own businesses and ask the views of their employees whether they are happy to be subjected to passive smoking."

Dr Dark added that worker's fears expressed had implications for restaurants, pubs and clubs.

He said: "People who work in that industry may be exposed to harmful agents. It would be be considered unfair for people who do not smoke to be forced into an environment where they face long-term exposure."

Dr Dark warned that there were parallels between firms that allowed staff to be exposed to passive smoking and companies where, 30 years ago, workers were able to breathe in asbestos fibres. Such firms are now having to pay compensation.

Steve Rankin, North-East director for the Confederaton of British Industry, said: "I think the trend is definitely in the direction that health professional want us to go. I have had three meetings today with companies which have non-smoking policies."