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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 09:38 GMT
Charity backs anti-smoking bill
MSP Stewart Maxwell believes smoking and eating do not mix
A cancer charity is urging MSPs to support a bid to restrict smoking in public places.

The Scottish National Party's Stewart Maxwell hopes to publish his anti-smoking bill at Holyrood in the new year.

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

Now Macmillan Cancer Relief has written to every member of the Scottish Parliament urging them to support the move.

The letter from Scottish director Ian Gibson is part of the charity's lung cancer awareness campaign.

"The high rates of lung cancer in Scotland reflect principally our history of high smoking prevalence," he wrote.

Medical community

"Reducing exposure to tobacco smoke is the simplest and most effective way of reducing our lung cancer rates.

"We urge you to support Stewart Maxwell's proposed bill to restrict smoking in public places, both to lower the risk of passive smoking and to encourage people to give up."

Mr Maxwell said: "It is always heartening to receive support from the medical community on this much needed measure to safeguard the health of the Scottish public.

"I am very pleased that an organisation which specialises in cancer care, and which is held in such high esteem by the Scottish public has given my proposed bill such complete support."

You must take public opinion with you otherwise it just won't work
Stewart Maxwell MSP
Consultation on the issue of smoking in bars and restaurants was carried out during the summer.

Mr Maxwell said he had received support from cancer charities and the British Medical Association.

He also received hundreds of emails of support from the public.

The only dissent came from tobacco manufacturers and organisations like Forest, which campaigns to defend the interests of smokers.

MSPs from across the political spectrum have also shown support for the proposals, said Mr Maxwell.

He admitted that he - and a number of other organisations - would like to see a complete ban on smoking in public places.

Survey evidence

But he said there were a number of reasons why he had limited the scope of his proposals.

"You must take public opinion with you otherwise it just won't work, it won't be effective," he said.

"The survey evidence is that people support a ban where there is food involved in restaurants and cafes. That is fairly clear now.

"Once we get that on the statute book I think public opinion will move on from there."

He also acknowledged that it was "debatable" whether a complete ban would win support at Holyrood.

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