Scotland proposes public smoking ban

Europe Uncategorized

The Scottish Executive has revealed detailed plans to stub-out smoking in all enclosed public places.

If passed by parliament, the proposal would lead to a total ban on smoking in pubs, clubs, hotels and students’ unions from spring 2006.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament this month, First Minister Jack McConnell stated: “the case for reducing smoking and exposure to second hand smoke is indisputable.”

The announcement of a blanket ban on smoking in enclosed public places ended weeks of speculation on just how far the Lib-Lab coalition would be prepared to go.

In what some commentators saw as a challenge to Westminster authority, McConnell added: “The single biggest contribution that our devolved government can make to improving public health in Scotland would be to reduce the toll of preventable, premature deaths from smoking.”

Medical figures across Scotland had campaigned hard for a tough stance on passive smoking. In an open letter to Jack McConnell, Dr Harry Burns, of NHS Greater Glasgow, noted: “In the coming year, more than a thousand Glaswegians will die prematurely because they smoke…Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of illness in Scotland.”

A parliamentary bill containing the smoking ban is likely to be debated from early next year. The proposal contains details of stiff penalties for those breaching the ban: Licensees who fail to enforce the new law could face a fine of up to £2,500 and the loss of their liquor licence.

Customers and workers who are caught lighting-up illegally will be hit with fixed penalty notices or a maximum fine of £1,000.

Despite drawing praise from medical professionals, the proposals angered pro-smoking groups and the Scottish Licensed Trade Authority; who claimed it would “devastate” pubs and result in the loss of 30,000 jobs.

Smokers’ rights group FOREST claimed: “The Executive has decided to snub the silent majority in favour of the vociferous anti-smoking minority. They have waved two fingers at the people of Scotland who want restrictions but not a ban.”

FOREST has previously highlighted research suggesting that 78 per cent of the public would prefer smoking restrictions in pubs, as opposed to an outright ban.

In Westminster, Health Secretary John Reid announced the government’s plan to ban smoking in pubs serving food by 2008. Anti-smoking groups had hoped that the English proposals would mirror those in Scotland.

However, Dr Reid claimed that the Westminster smoking ban would be a balance of “protecting the health of the majority [while] protecting precious freedoms.”

The Conservatives immediately criticised the proposals as the product of a “nanny state”.

Anti-Smoking campaign group ASH Scotland praised the Executive for “acting decisively,” in announcing an all-out ban. Chief Executive Maureen Moore said that the Executive’s announcement was “a bold and radical proposal to find a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem.”

If passed, Scotland’s ban on smoking in enclosed public places would go even further than existing smoking bans in countries like Ireland; where smoking is illegal in the workplace.

In New York, some private members’ clubs are excluded from the smoking ban. This will not be the case in Scotland; making it illegal to smoke in pool halls and students’ unions.

“Smokers agree with a ban but will fight it to the bitter end”, argued 18-year-old business student and smoker Iain Delworth; who believes that restrictions on smoking in the Union may persuade students to drink at home instead of at one of the Union bars.

Claire, a 20-year-old psychology student enjoying a drink in the relatively smoke-free Millers bar, described the smoking ban as “quite a good idea” from a non-smoker’s point of view.

David, also 20 and studying aeromechanics, said that, as a casual smoker, a ban would probably persuade him to quit.