Kevin Rowan column
As a young union representative in the shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness there were many controversial issues and the one that always led to the most heated debates was the introduction of a smoking policy at work.
As the government consults on smoking at work and in public places, the old arguments rear their head again. Only this time, there is much more knowledge about smoking and its consequences.
In the UK passive smoking leads directly to around 10,000 preventable deaths every year. Most relate to exposure at home but more than 600 are caused at work - 35 in the North-East, every year.
This remains a major health and safety issue for all workers and employers.
The government's options include a voluntary approach, a complete ban in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces, or a partial ban, leaving exemptions for private members' clubs and pubs and clubs that don't serve food.
The TUC will call for "option 2", a complete ban in all enclosed public spaces and in all workplaces.
This is the only way in which all workers can be protected from potentially fatal exposure to second-hand smoke.
In the North-East the proportion of pubs and clubs not selling food is higher than in other areas, so such an exemption would expose relatively more workers to risks.
And to allow private members' clubs to opt-out is unacceptable to the workers there too.
As the GMB has highlighted, smoke at work is the number one concern for the growing numbers of casino workers in the UK.
Some parts of the hospitality sector suggest that going smoke-free would damage business.
There is no evidence to suggest this is the case. In fact, a partial ban has more potential to damage business.
The Royal College of Physicians estimate that a complete ban at work would save the economy some £4bn in less ill-health at work, reduced NHS costs and reduced insurance premiums for employers and individuals.
Of course people have the right to smoke if they wish, but no-one should have the right to poison colleagues and customers. Second-hand smoke is a killer at work and the government needs to have the courage and conviction to put an end to that right now.