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Scotland Smoking Ban To Go Ahead

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Smoking is to be banned in enclosed public places in Scotland, the Scottish Executive has decided.

The decision, which was a unanimous one by Scottish ministers, will be announced in the Scottish Parliament about 1430 GMT.

Doctors and anti-tobacco groups had urged the executive to "be brave" and opt for a ban to improve public health.

Licensees have vowed to fight the ban, which follows similar moves by Ireland, Norway and parts of the USA.

Bill O'Neill, Scottish secretary of the British Medical Association, said: "Devolution has provided us with an opportunity to lead the rest of the UK in developing this vital piece of public health legislation.

"Voluntary measures, which are about comfort rather than public health protection, have been in place for over 10 years and have been proved to be ineffective.

"Each year we continue to rely on these half-hearted measures, Scots continue to suffer from passive smoke-related illnesses and significant numbers die.

To continue to allow people to work in smoky environments is the 21st century equivalent of sending children up chimneys

Jim Devine

Unison

"International experience shows that comprehensive tobacco control programmes, supported by national legislation, work."

Professor Alex Markham, of Cancer Research UK, said that a ban on smoking in public in Scotland could signal the biggest step forward in the fight against cancer for a generation.

The British Heart Foundation, also urged the executive to follow Ireland's lead.

Leader of the Royal College of Nurses in Scotland James Kennedy said decisive action was needed to tackle Scotland's poor public health record.

The country had been at the bottom of European health league tables for too long, and this was "an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way in the UK and make a real difference".

'Real difference'

Jim Devine, spokesman for the public services union Unison, called banning smoking in enclosed public places a "basic health and safety matter".

"Passive smoking seriously harms health and can kill those who are exposed to tobacco smoke for extended periods of time - most vulnerable are bar and restaurant workers.

"To continue to allow people to work in smoky environments is the 21st century equivalent of sending children up chimneys."

Scottish Executive insiders have said that the economic claims made by opponents do not add up, as trade had increased in New York bars and restaurants after a ban there.

Scotland's health record meant it was not acceptable to simply wait for public opinion to catch up.

However, the executive has been warned that publicans will fight "tooth and nail" to stop plans for an outright ban on smoking on their premises.

Compromise option

Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said publicans did not agree with a total ban and feared it could destroy their businesses.

He argued that while his members were backing new curbs, a full ban would be disastrous for the trade.

He said: "We fully endorse the executive's desire to tighten smoking policy. But we still believe that we don't have to go from nothing to a total ban.

"We have compromise proposals on the table, they are fair, we believe they are workable and we think that we don't have to go to a full ban here."

Cigarette producers have claimed the people of Scotland are not in favour of a ban.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA) said an executive-commissioned poll had found a 50-50 split between those for and against further restrictions on smoking in public.

TMA chief executive Tim Lord said Scotland had been surveyed as part of a UK-wide poll of 10,000 people.

'Costly bureaucracy'

The results indicated that 77% of people were not in favour of a total ban in pubs, clubs and bars, he said.

"The public want choice, not a legislative ban with costly bureaucracy.

"We urge the executive to maintain support behind a voluntary approach, reflecting public opinion."

A spokesman for the executive declined to confirm the findings and said the poll would be discussed during the cabinet meeting.

Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin said: "In my view, the responsibility for politicians is to take action to save lives.

Death toll

"Scotland has one of the worst health reputations in western Europe, with one in four of all deaths attributable to smoking.

"About 13,000 people die every year as a result of smoking - we have to tackle that."

Ms Brankin added that 7,000 people in Ireland stopped smoking in the first months of the Irish ban and tobacco sales have fallen 16%.

She said: "The facts are there and they are irrefutable - we simply must take action."

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