Hospital fines for smokers flouting ban

SMOKERS lighting up in hospital grounds could face fines of up to £1000 as part of a raft of new public health measures.

A smoker ignores the ban in force at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: Toby Williams
A smoker ignores the ban in force at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: Toby Williams

Hospital premises across Scotland became smoke-free on April 1 but the Evening News revealed last month that people were openly flouting the ban at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Breaking the rules is now set to become a statutory offence under the forthcoming Health Bill, which will be introduced later this year.

The measures will be enforced by health boards through signs and council environment wardens, who will be able to dish out fixed penalty notices of up to £1000, a Scottish Government spokesman confirmed.

The Bill, which was announced yesterday by Public Health Minister Maureen Watt, will also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s and to make it an offence for an adult to buy them for a minor.

The news has been welcomed by campaigners at Ash Scotland, who called for an attitude change towards smoking.

Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Supporting NHS boards by making it an offence to smoke near hospital buildings should help to make entrances smoke-free. This is about changing attitudes to tobacco, and recognising just how many of those currently receiving NHS treatment have had their lives damaged by cigarettes.”

But Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP criticised the “dubious enforcement procedures” which he said would not help people to quit. He said: “Politicians of all parties are committed to reducing smoking and ensuring healthy practices are observed in our hospitals, but bans with dubious enforcement procedures are no substitute for actions which encourage smokers to give up.”

Dona Milne, deputy director of public health at NHS Lothian, said the “vast majority” had been respectful of the no-smoking policy.

She said: “Introducing our smoke-free policy and changing attitudes is challenging, but we encourage people who would like to quit smoking to access help and support.”

The Bill will also create a criminal offence to protect people from deliberate neglect or ill-treatment in the health and social care system.