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THE FAG END; Ban on smoking in force by 2006.

Byline: Magnus Gardham

JACK McConnell yesterday announced an all-out ban on smoking in public places.

In a historic speech to Parliament, the First Minister started the countdown to a smoke-free Scotland.

The ban will come into force in March 2006 and will apply to pubs, clubs, restaurants, workplaces and almost all other public places.

Anyone who flouts the ban could be handed a fixed-penalty 'smoking ticket' and hit with a pounds 50 to pounds 100 fine.

And those who persistently break the law could be given a pounds 1000 fine.

Penalties for landlords who allow smoking in their pubs will be harsher.

They will face a pounds 2500 fine and could be stripped of their licence if they repeatedly ignore regulations.

The move was welcomed by health organisations.

But it sparked a furious reaction from pub bosses, suggesting the battle to ban cigarettes is just beginning.

A health Bill to ban smoking in 'enclosed public places' will be brought before MSPs next month to begin its passage through Parliament.

A few places will escape the ban.

Officials have yet to draw up a list of exemptions - but they could include prison cells, rooms in nursing homes or psychiatric institutions.

Some workplace smoking rooms may also be exempt.

Officials haven't decided whether grandstands at sporting venues should be classed as 'enclosed public places'.

But ministers have ordered the exemptions to be kept to a minimum.

McConnell stressed: 'Private clubs will not be exempt, the only exemptions will be in private and specific circumstances.'

He told MSPs the decision to go for a tough ban would transform Scotland's health and put the country's 'sick man of Europe image' firmly in the past.

He said: 'A comprehensive ban will be a clear signal Scotland has changed.

'It'll reduce smoking, save lives and help transform our national health.

'To my mind, there is no greater action we can take to improve the well-being of children and families in Scotland for generations to come.

'But more than anything, the reason why smoking in public places should be illegal is because of the message it sends about our nation.

'No longer will Scotland be the place in Europe most associated with poor health.'

The ban will be enforced mainly by local council environmental health officers, though police will also have powers to impose smoking tickets.

Extra EHOs may be hired to cope. However, officials are confident the ban will be widely observed and 'self-regulating'.

A National Smoke Free Areas Implementation Group will be set up to smooth the ban's introduction.

It will be chaired by Health Minister Andy Kerr and pub trade bosses will be invited to take part.

Health service bosses will be given an extra pounds 3million to help smokers quit, doubling their existing budgets.

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the ban.

But Scots Tory leader David McLetchie said most Scots did not want an all-out ban and called for a 'more reasonable and balanced approach'.

Hospitals campaigner and former GP Jean Turner MSP said: 'I've spent most of my life looking after the effects of cigarette smoking. This is wonderful news.'

Ministers discussed the ban for one hour 15 minutes at their weekly cabinet meeting before finalising their decision.

It is understood they rejected the option of a partial ban, which would have allowed smoking in bars.

They considered Scotland's biggest ever public consultation, which showed a majority wanted a ban - though a significant majority asked for pubs to be exempt.

They also looked at a specially commissioned survey, showing 75 per cent of people were not in favour of an all-out ban, including bars.

Research by Glasgow and Aberdeen universities suggested the move would save lives and help the economy.

After making his historic address, McConnell admitted there will be a battle to win over public opinion.

And he warned: 'There'll be a lot of lies and misinformation from vested interests but I intend to stick with the truth to make sure the national interest of Scotland comes through here.'

He added: 'I am convinced that by 2007 not only will we have a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places but it will be a ban which is popular in Scotland.'

#A survey published today claims 76 per cent of regular smokers in Scotland want to cut down or quit.

CAPTION(S):

BATTLE OF THE BUTT: Backers of the ban say it will help transform the nation's health and build a better future for generations to come; HISTORIC: Jack McConnell
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 11, 2004
Words:750
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