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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 11:21 GMT
Call to ban smoking in public
Cigarette stub
Smoking in public places is said to cause thousands of deaths
An anti-tobacco group has called on the Scottish Executive to ban smoking in public places.

The demand came after leading doctors called for a ban in a letter to The Times newspaper.

Representatives from the Royal College of Physicians and 17 other medical colleges said there was compelling evidence of the dangers of passive smoking.

Deputy Health Minister Tom McCabe said the executive was about to embark on a "meaningful" national debate on the impact of smoking.

Eminent people

He said: "I think it is too early too pre-empt what the outcome of that debate and that consultation is going to be.

"We are aware that smoking does great harm in Scotland. We are aware that passive smoking also does great harm.

"We want to engage in a campaign that better informs the public about how much harm is being done and that is why I welcome the intervention of so many eminent people from the medical profession."

He said he wanted "to take Scotland with us" over any proposed smoking ban.

If the government and the executive are not going to listen to the top ranks of medics across the UK, then we have got to ask who are they going to listen to?
Tanith Muller
Ash Scotland spokeswoman

Tanith Muller, of anti-smoking group Ash Scotland, called on the executive to listen to the advice of the experts.

She said: "If the government and the executive are not going to listen to the top ranks of medics across the UK, then we have got to ask who are they going to listen to?"

A voluntary charter on smoking has seen little success, according to Ash Scotland.

Ms Muller said: "Three years into that scheme, seven out of 10 pubs have no smoke-free areas at all. Four out of 10 of all leisure establishments, which includes sports centres and shopping centres, are allowing smoking throughout. The voluntary approach is not making progress."

Ash Scotland called for legislation to protect employees from working in smoky places, which is an issue reserved to Westminster.

However, the executive could introduce laws to restrict smoking in public places, it said.

Reserved matter

Scottish National Party MSP Stewart Maxwell hopes to publish a members' bill seeking to restrict smoking in public in the New Year.

His proposals would ban people from lighting up in places where food is served, such as restaurants, bars and cafes.

He said: "A workplace ban is a reserved matter. We cannot legislate in that area."

The ban on smoking where food is served was a step in the right direction while still taking into account reservations from industry over a total ban, he said.

"Also we have to take public opinion along with us. And effectively all the survey evidence shows that, where it is attached to food, there is a widespread public support for that," Mr Maxwell said.


SEE ALSO:
Doctors urge public smoking ban
25 Nov 03  |  London
Q&A: Passive smoking
25 Nov 03  |  Medical notes
Charity backs anti-smoking bill
08 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Passive smoke strategy 'has failed'
23 Sep 03  |  Scotland
EU public smoking ban considered
19 Sep 03  |  Health


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