Ash, the anti-smoking charity, has been accused of a cheap publicity stunt for sending a registered letter to 180 leisure and hospitality companies warning them they could be prosecuted for exposing their employees to passive smoking. The letter, which was sent mainly to pub and hotel companies, warned that employers who allowed smoking in the workplace were liable under the Health and Safety at Work Act for any damage caused to their staff. However, Nick Bish, chairman of the hospitality industry's Charter Group, which is dedicated to voluntary action by companies on smoking in pubs, bars and restaurants, accused Ash of sending the letter as a stunt to raise its media profile. Bish said: "There is nothing new in the letter. We all know our duties as employers to ensure the health and safety of our staff. "The industry is well aware of the issue of public smoking and has been very effective in helping to deal with it. No-smoking at the bar is not unusual, no-smoking areas have doubled in the past few years and even no-smoking pubs are being developed. "We do not see Ash as assisting this process in any way. They seem lost in some form of trench warfare mentality. They would have far more credibility with hospitality operators if they left their ivory tower and joined us in trying to deal with the practicalities of the issue." Ash has linked up with the law firm Thompsons as part of a campaign to urge workers who believed their health had been harmed by inhaling smoke to seek compensation. Deborah Arnott, director of Ash, said: "The time is long past when employers should have known that second-hand smoke is bad for their staff, and bad for the general public. "If employers will not act from conviction or common sense, and if the government still refuses to legislate, then the issue will be forced to a head in the courts." John Hall, a solicitor at Thompsons added: "Bosses are no more entitled to allow smoke in the workplace as they are to allow asbestos or coal dust."