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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Doctors deliver smoking ban call
Dr Peter Terry arrives at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh
Dr Peter Terry hands in letters of support for a smoking ban
A group of doctors has handed in more than 1,000 letters calling for a ban on smoking in public places in Scotland.

The doctors have been taking part in the official consultation on smoking, which ends on Thursday.

The letters, carried in a large mock cigarette packet, were given to Deputy Health Minister Tom McCabe by BMA Scotland's chairman, Dr Peter Terry.

He said if Scotland opted for a ban, it would be one of the international leaders in public health strategies.

Dr Terry said: "Smoking remains the biggest single cause of preventable death in Scotland and if the Scottish Executive introduced smoke-free enclosed public places, it would be the single most effective piece of public health legislation to be passed in the UK.

"These letters send a clear message from the medical profession and illustrate, very graphically, the ill health effects of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke."

There has been a huge public response to the exercise to find how to minimise the impact of passive smoking.

Learn lessons

Edinburgh City Council has also backed the idea of a national ban.

Councillors said they believed the clearest and most effective approach would be country-wide legislation, with councils enforcing the new laws.

More than 27,000 people have responded to the survey so far.

The Scottish Executive revealed that the response was 20 times higher than that received by any other consultation.

Smoking barred sign
The public consultation period will end on Thursday
An announcement from ministers on any changes to current policy - including the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places - is expected before Christmas.

Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable premature death and ill-health and there is mounting evidence of the health risks of passive smoking.

Experts argue that 30 minutes' exposure is enough to reduce blood flow to the heart.

The Republic of Ireland introduced a ban on smoking in workplaces at the end of March, prompting debate as to whether the UK should follow suit.

If customers are caught smoking in pubs, restaurants and other enclosed workplaces in the Republic, proprietors face fines of up to 2,000.

There had been doubts about how workable the ban would be in a nation renowned for its smoky bars.

Speaking during a visit there earlier this month, First Minister Jack McConnell said Scotland could learn positive lessons from the Irish experience.

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