Scotland starts smoking ban to tackle poor health
Edinburgh, Mar 27: A sweeping ban on smoking comes into force in Scotland, making it the first part of Britain where pubs, restaurants and workplaces are smoke-free.
Scotland yesterday imposed the measure on all enclosed public places as part of efforts to improve a poor public health record.
Officials have been inspired by Ireland, which imposed the world's first nationwide smoking ban in 2004, and a string of other countries which followed its lead.
''I hope this weekend we will see Scots not resent this ban but in fact take pride in it,'' said First Minister Jack McConnell, the head of the Scottish government.
''We are leading the way in the United Kingdom, we are up there with those most progressive countries in the world who are taking this step,'' he told Reuters.
About 30 per cent of Scots smoke and health officials hope the ban will prompt many of them to quit.
But they say its primary purpose is to cut deaths caused by passive smoking, which run at about 1,000 per year in Scotland.
Pub landlords have voiced concerns that they will lose customers and some have set up outdoor smoking areas. Other critics have branded the ban an attack on individual freedoms.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all expected to implement a similar ban next year.
Scottish officials say they have moved more quickly because Scotland has higher rates of heart disease, cancer and strokes than most other European countries.
People in Scotland also smoke more and die earlier than those who live elsewhere in Britain.
Heavy drinking and smoking, a diet of fatty foods and a lack of exercise are all blamed for the nation's health problems.
''We're under no illusions that changing the public health record in Scotland is a long-term challenge,'' McConnell said.
The ban comes into force at 6 a.m. but it may be some time before officials can say how well it is being observed.
Inspectors in the capital Edinburgh do not plan to check on pubs and other venues until Sunday evening and the local council in Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city, said it would not comment on how the ban was being implemented on the first day.