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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK

UK: Scotland

Scotland faces smoking curbs

MSPs are to consider taking action

New research into the health risks of passive smoking has prompted calls for the Scottish Parliament to restrict smoking in public places.

BBC Scotland's David Kerr reports on the possibility of a public smoking ban
Politicians at Westminster are already reviewing legislation on smoking in the workplace and will soon launch a voluntary charter for restaurants and pubs.

And MSPs are set to follow with six members of the Scottish Parliament's health committee agreeing new laws are needed.

When asked by BBC Scotland, committee members Margaret Smith, Hugh Henry, Margaret Jamieson, Irene Oldfather, Dr Richard Simpson and Duncan Hamilton said smoking in public places should be curbed.

Fellow members, Ben Wallace, Mary Scanlon and Kay Ullrich disagreed and Malcolm Chisholm said he had not made up his mind.

BBC Scotland's Ed Meynell hears both sides in the argument
The new pressure on government to act comes in light of research, carried out in New Zealand, which says passive smoking can double the chances of suffering a stroke.

As part of the powers devolved from London to Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament can increase restrictions on smoking.

David Clark, of Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, said the parliament should act if the evidence is clear.

"We would expect the Scottish Parliament to take seriously any evidence which shows an increased risk of stroke.

"It may be that they might wish to look at restrictions on smoking in public places, the work place and so on," said Mr Clark.

Call to committee

The SNP's Shadow Deputy Health Minister, Duncan Hamilton, said the Scottish Parliament's health and community care committee should study the latest research and act upon it as soon as possible.

He said: "I want to see Scotland taking a lead in this field. We have appalling problems in public health and there is no doubt that smoking is a major killer in our country.

"The parliament should seize the initiative and I will be asking the health committee to look at the current research available around the globe to help us frame and push forward regulations to protect non-smokers and employees from this health threat."

New Zealand cases

The findings of the New Zealand study discovered smokers are up to four times more likely to have a stroke than people who do not smoke - but up to six times more likely than those who are not exposed to passive smoking.

Researchers who published their work in the medical journal Tobacco, used data from the New Zealand Auckland Stroke Study, which has documented all cases of stroke in Auckland of anyone over the age of 15.

Dr Ruth Bonita from The World Health Organisation: "People should be protected from other people's smoke"
They found men and women non-smokers and long-term ex-smokers ran a significant risk of stroke as a result of passive smoking for more than a year in the preceding 10 years.

Dr Ruth Bonita, senior author of the study, and now director of communicable disease surveillance at the World Health Organisation, said: "Preventing exposure to other people's tobacco smoke should be a priority. Passive smokers should actively demand better protection."

Clive Bates, Director of the anti-smoking organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said the study proved that tobacco posed a risk to many more than just those who smoked.

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