EDINBURGH: A ban on smoking has come into effect in Scotland Sunday, making it the first part of Britain where pubs, restaurants and workplaces are to remain no-smoking zones.
Health experts hope the ban will have a clear impact on the people’s health and result in a big drop in the number of deaths due to passive smoking, which is estimated around 1,000 a year in the region with a population of five million. They expect that Scotland, which is considered the “sick man of Europe” because of a life style marked by heaving drinking and smoking, unhealthy diets and sedentary way of life, will see a major change in the life style because of the ban.
A major promotion of the ban is being undertaken at various levels. On the first day of the ban, at the Edinburgh airport, volunteers were seen handing out leaflets explaining the ban. There are banners put up in the city declaring, “Welcome to a smoke free Scotland.”
First minister Jack McConnell, head of Scotland government said, “We have an unhealthy reputation and we are going to change that. We have a record as a country that has too much heart disease, too much cancer, too many stroke victims.”
He said in the years ahead, people will look back on today as the day that Scotland took the largest single step to improve its health for generations.
The new law makes smoking inside an enclosed public place an offence, attracting an on-the-spot fine of 50 pounds.
Ireland is the first country, which had imposed a nation-wide ban on smoking in 2004. Several other countries have since followed suit banning smoking in public places. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to impose ban on smoking early next year.
Scotland has carried out several surveys, which have shown that more than 60 per cent of its people support the ban.
About 30 per cent of the Scottish people are known to smoke, a higher rate than the rest of Britain. They also enjoy a lower life expectancy.
There are people who oppose the ban. They describe it as an attack on individual freedom and intrusion into the life of working class people. Pub and restaurant owners are also concerned about the ban as they expect it would affect their businesses.
Pro-smoking group Forest said the smokers were being victimised and told them to stand up to the “bullying tactics of health fanatics”.
As the ban was a few hours away, pubs, clubs and restaurants across the country had thousands of smokers assembled, puffing on their final cigarettes, with some venues holding special events to mark the occasion.
As the ban came into force, anti-smoking enforcement officers, mostly from environmental health departments, were seen in pubs across the country to ensure that no one was breaking the new law.
There are fears that as the ban becomes effective, smokers could make regular trips to England across the border to have a puff. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said there will be “smoke commuters” travelling to England to have a cigarette. The association said the ban could be devastating for pubs in the Borders.