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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 08:46 GMT
Clearing the air for a new dawn
The ban on smoking in enclosed public places comes into effect on the morning of Sunday, 26 March.

As part of the series of articles from interested parties supporting and opposed to the ban, Health Minister Andy Kerr looks forward to a new era for the people of Scotland.

The minister believes that the legislation will become one of the greatest achievements of devolution.

From 0600 GMT in the morning on 26 March, 2006 Scotland will become the first part of the UK to be smoke-free.

Stubbing out a cigarette
The executive hopes the ban will see people kicking the habit

This far-reaching and bold step will protect the health of hundreds of thousands of Scots who find themselves exposed to second-hand smoke every year.

In Scotland, second-hand smoke is associated with up to 1,000 deaths a year among lifelong non-smokers - the case for reducing exposure to second-hand smoke to improve health is now indisputable.

It will also help many people to give up smoking and encourage a no-smoking culture for future generations.

With over 13,000 deaths a year from smoking-related illnesses in Scotland, the potential benefits to the health of the people of Scotland are enormous.

The comprehensive nature of the legislation will also help us to close the health inequalities in our society, with smoking a major contributor to disease and reduced life expectancy in our least well off communities.

Andy Kerr
We know already that seven out of 10 people don't smoke and of those who do, seven out of 10 want to give up

In Ireland there has also been a significant drop in the number of cigarettes being smoked, particularly among heavy smokers since 2003.

And in New York there are now nearly 200,000 fewer smokers since 2002.

Over the same period, exposure to second-hand smoke in homes in New York dropped by more than a third.

In Scotland, we know already that seven out of 10 people don't smoke and of those who do, seven out of 10 want to give up.

The smoking ban will make it easier for those who do decide to give up to do so.

Right decision

Calls to the national quitline in 2005, at over 60,000, were almost double the number calling in 2003.

So Scots are starting to make the effort to give up now.

I know how difficult it is to stop smoking and as a former smoker I appreciate fully the challenge it presents, but it is the best decision a smoker can make.

That is why we are investing record levels of funding - 11m by 2007/8 - in services to support people who want to give up.

Scotland has a high rate of smoking-related disease

Improved services in communities across Scotland - combined with the introduction of the ban - make 2006 the best year yet to give up.

You can now get cessation support in a range of settings from the local bingo hall to the shopping centre.

This makes it much easier for people to get the encouragement and support they need to quit.

It really is the right decision, not just for the smoker, but for their friends and their families. It will help keep families together for longer.

International evidence also suggests that the ban will be good for the economy and without significant impact on the hospitality sector.

In Ireland bar retail value sales are now up on pre-ban levels.

Premature deaths

So 26 March, 2006 really is a big day for Scotland.

The benefits that will follow are priceless.

Our country's health and productivity will improve and the incidence of smoking-related diseases will fall.

It will give our wider drive to improve the health of Scots an extremely solid foundation on which we can build.

Scotland's health is improving, but not fast enough.

Premature deaths from cancer, stroke and heart disease have all significantly decreased in recent years however people living in deprived areas have a significantly shorter life expectancy than those in more affluent areas.

The smoking ban will have a massive impact on this.

I am confident that, in time, the improvement in public health delivered through this legislation will be regarded as one of the great achievements of devolution.

Passive smoking is not just a nuisance - it is a killer.

And that is why this legislation is so important for the people of Scotland and the future health of our nation.

We should all be proud.


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