So, a week after I left Edinburgh following a short holiday, I'm back in the city.
I flew up last night and this morning I joined Sheila Duffy (ASH Scotland), Linda Bauld (Cancer Research) and Andy Morrison (New Nicotine Alliance) giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee.
The subject was the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Bill, stage one of which covers e-cigarettes and smoking in hospital grounds.
I posted Forest's submission here last month so I won't go through it again.
Suffice to say I was a little concerned the hospital issue might get sidelined in favour of a much longer discussion about e-cigarettes.
Thankfully that didn't happen. What happened was even better. Cue the Scotsman:
The prospect of a blanket smoking ban on all hospital grounds in Scotland has come under fire from Nationalist backbenchers who say it would infringe patients’ “human rights.”
Nationalist MSP Richard Lyle said: “I’m a smoker and think people should be able to smoke outside hospital - but maybe at a 100 yard radius from the hospital entrance.”
He suggested shelters could be set up in hospital grounds so people can “exercise their human right to do as they wish and have a cigarette.”
He added: “I want to have a situation where...we respect people who do want to smoke and respect people who don’t want smoking at the entrances.”
Another SNP MSP, Mike McKenzie, suggested that the measure would effectively see smokers forced to go “cold turkey” as it would leave many with a “real, practical problem” in being able to smoke.
See Smoking ban in hospital grounds attacked by MSPs (Scotsman).
Naturally their comments were music to my ears so I piled in as well. According to the BBC:
Plans to make smoking in hospital grounds a statutory offence have been branded "inhumane, petty and vindictive" by a pro-smoking (sic) group.
Simon Clark from Forest made the remark while giving evidence to Holyrood's health committee.
Mr Clark told MSPs: "Going to hospital as a patient or a visitor can be a very stressful experience. It's also quite stressful for many members of staff.
"To ban smoking on all hospital grounds, we think, is totally inhumane, it's totally vindictive, it's petty, far pettier actually than banning smoking in pubs. At least people can still go outside.
"To extend it to entire hospital sites, we think, is absolutely outrageous."
We discussed e-cigs too but it was the hospital story that made all the headlines. For example:
It even made tonight's Reporting Scotland (BBC1) at 6.30 and 10.25.
One thing I must correct is a remark attributed to me by the Press Association and repeated in several newspapers.
According to the PA I suggested 'designated shelters or a 100-yard no-smoking zone would be more appropriate' than a total smoking ban.
That's not quite right. The 100-yard figure was Richard Lyle's idea. I accepted there was a case for banning smoking around hospital entrances but I would never support a 100-yard exclusion zone around hospital buildings.
As I recall I specifically declined to put any distance on an exclusion zone. Instead I said there should be no 'one-size fits all' approach because hospital grounds vary enormously in size and it should be up to the hospital administrators, not central government, to decide on the exact policy.
That one error aside, I'm pretty pleased with the coverage.
Tomorrow I'm travelling to Cork via Dublin to meet Forest Eireann's John Mallon and our new Dublin-based media and public affairs manager Terence Cosgrave.
John has also been busy today. See Smokers group hits out at proposal for 50 cent hike on pack of cigarettes (Newstalk).