NHS plan to ban all smoking at Scottish hospitals

Alex Neil: The government had 'ambitious plans' to reduce the number of people choosing to smoke. Picture: Michael Gillen
Alex Neil: The government had 'ambitious plans' to reduce the number of people choosing to smoke. Picture: Michael Gillen
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SMOKING is to be completely banned on NHS premises under plans to be announced this week by the Scottish Government.

Smokers – including patients – will no longer be allowed to smoke outside hospital buildings, in car parks or anywhere on NHS sites.

Until now NHS boards have had the power to ban smoking on their premises if they wished but enforcement has been patchy. Under the new orders all boards will be required to implement and enforce smoke-free policies across their grounds by March 2015. The ruling comes ahead of the publication of the government’s smoking strategy later this week, which is expected to include ambitious targets to eradicate smoking from Scottish society.

The Scottish Government said as part of the move to promote smoke-free environments and healthier lifestyles, patients, visitors and staff would no longer be able to smoke on NHS sites.

But smokers will be offered advice and support to help them refrain from smoking during hospital visits, as well as access to specialist smoking cessation services for those who want to quit permanently.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the government had “ambitious plans” to reduce the number of people choosing to smoke.

He added: “To this end, we want to build on the ban on smoking in public places, which was introduced seven years ago this week, by ensuring that our hospital grounds become smoke-free.

“We know that smoking is extremely harmful to health and causes in excess of 13,000 deaths per year in Scotland. The toll of smoking on our nation’s health cannot be underestimated.

“Creating smoke-free hospital grounds sends out a powerful message that every visit to our health service is an opportunity to promote and improve people’s health.

“We all know how unpleasant it can be to walk through a cloud of smoke in order to enter or leave a building. These measures will help to ensure that we create a healthier environment for people who use, visit and work in our health service. That is why we believe staff, patients and visitors will support and respect this decision.”

The new measures will not apply to mental health facilities which have an exemption under the original smoke-free legislation.

The Scottish Government will this week also set out other measures which it hopes will build on the success of the ban on smoking in public places. Supporters hope it will follow the example of New Zealand, which is aiming for a tobacco-free country by 2025.

Measures could include plain packaging for cigarettes, making cars smoke-free and reducing the number of locations where they could be purchased. They could also include banning sales at shops near schools and making sure smoking cessation products were also on sale next to ­tobacco.

Professor Richard Edwards, director of the research group ASPIRE2025, which is working towards the New Zealand target, has been visiting Scotland to discuss their approach.

He said: “My understanding from the draft strategy [in Scotland] is that it is very likely that it will set a goal for making Scotland smoke-free in the same way as New Zealand.

“That will be a major development and there will be a clear strategy behind it. I think Scotland will be the first country in the world to set a goal and set out a government strategy as to how they are proposing to achieve that. We have not gone that far in New Zealand.

“So this is something pretty unique and will put Scotland right at the forefront of protecting people from tobacco.”