Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Tuesday, 19 September 2006 17:19 UK

Welsh smoking ban starts in April

Smoking will be banned in all enclosed public spaces

A smoking ban in enclosed public spaces will be introduced in Wales on 2 April, before similar laws in England.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan announced that it will come into force a month before the assembly election, and at the same time as Northern Ireland.

It will mean no lighting up at work, in pubs or clubs, although there will be some exemptions, such as hotel rooms.

A smoking ban will start in England on a so far unspecified date next summer. A ban already exists in Scotland.

AMs voted for a ban in 2003, but could not change the law until this year's Health Act setting out England's ban.

The draft legislation is currently out to consultation, covering issues such as the definition of "enclosed," possible exemptions and how the ban will be enforced.

The consultation ends next month.

This is a comprehensive ban in all public places throughout Wales and that would include workplaces, pubs and working men's clubs
Health Minister Brian Gibbons

Mr Morgan said: "The risks of second-hand smoke have been known for some time.

"This is why the National Assembly voted in 2003 to seek powers to ban smoking in enclosed public places. This is now becoming a reality.

"If all the legislation goes through assembly procedures as expected Wales will have a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places from 2 April, 2007."

Opposition parties in the assembly welcomed the news, and the assembly government will also run a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of second-hand smoke.

Health Minister Brian Gibbons said the assembly government was introducing the ban as soon as possible to improve the quality of health of people in Wales.

'Protect the public'

"Any delay once we have this information and the legislative powers I think will reflect very badly on any government's commitment to promoting the health and well-being of its population," Dr Gibbons said.

"There will be some exemptions - for example, in hotel rooms and some areas that would effectively be regarded as people's homes.

"But I think the headline message is that this is a comprehensive ban in all public places throughout Wales, and that would include workplaces, pubs and workingmen's clubs, to use that term."

Chief medical officer for Wales Tony Jewell said the ban would avert more than 400 deaths a year in Wales from lung cancer, chronic heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.

"By introducing this legislation we can reduce the effects of second-hand smoke and protect the public and workers from the harmful effects," he said.

Ireland banned smoking in March 2004, and a number of other European countries have followed suit, including Italy, Malta, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

Peter Jones, chairman of the Welsh executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, said: "We all know that smoking has a potentially harmful effect on the health and well-being of not only smokers, but also non-smokers through passive smoking".

Mr Jones said community pharmacists offered a free advice service to help smokers give up.

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