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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Smoking ban consultation closes
The executive is committed to creating more smoke-free places in Scotland
Officials are wading through tens of thousands of responses after a consultation on banning smoking in public places came to an end.

It may take more than a week to count the exact number of views received.

The deputy health minister said the "astounding" level of interest had led to at least 20 times more responses than any previous consultation.

Tom McCabe said the Scottish Executive would announce the way forward before the end of the year.

It is estimated that smoking claims more than 13,000 lives each year, making it the biggest cause of premature death and ill health in Scotland.

Consultation period

Three months ago the executive asked people living in Scotland for their views on the introduction of a ban in public places.

Figures released by the executive in the closing days of the consultation period revealed that at least 27,000 people had responded.

On Wednesday, a group of doctors handed in more than 1,000 letters supporting a ban.

They were presented to Mr McCabe in a large mock cigarette packet by BMA Scotland's chairman, Dr Peter Terry.

Dr Peter Terry hands in letters of support for a smoking ban
Dr Peter Terry hands in letters of support for a smoking ban
Edinburgh City Council 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.

There was also support from campaigning organisation Ash Scotland, which submitted its response on Thursday.

Chief executive Maureen Moore said: "We believe that ending smoking in enclosed public places is absolutely essential in addressing public health in Scotland."

Speaking after the consultation period closed, Mr McCabe said: "The level of interest in the consultation has been absolutely astounding and clearly shows the strong feelings raised by this issue.

Public places

"We are still counting the final number of responses but we have received at least 20 times more than any other executive consultation."

He said the executive was committed to creating more smoke-free public places in Scotland.

"There are many ways in which we could achieve this," he added.

The executive is not interested in any other views advocating an alternative approach
Brian Monteith
Tory spokesman
"We will now consider carefully all the evidence and will announce the way ahead by the end of the year."

However, the consultation process was attacked as "one-sided" and "a sham" by Brian Monteith, the Scottish Conservatives' spokesman for finance and public services.

He claimed that the consultation meetings which were held across Scotland were "loaded in favour of a ban".

And he said: "The reality is that the executive is not interested in any other views advocating an alternative approach.

"This is disappointing, as voluntary approach is working perfectly well, and at present the trend is for more and more restaurants, cafés and pubs to be no-smoking or at the very least to create more smoke-free zones in response to public demand."

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