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« Why we need a coalition for choice | Main | COP7 – a useful lesson in tobacco control (and the endgame is not tobacco) »

Smokers to be fined for lighting up within 15 metres of hospital buildings

COP7 has been a welcome diversion but back at the coalface ...

Smokers in Scotland face being fined up to £1,000 if they light up within 15 metres of hospital buildings.

According to the Sunday Herald:

The Scottish Government has published proposals for implementing legislation that makes it an offence to smoke in areas directly outside a hospital building.

In a letter to health board chiefs, it states the no-smoking zone perimeter should extend to a distance of 15 metres from the building.

Anyone who flouts the ban within the zone will be subject to the same penalties as if caught smoking in a public place – a £50 fixed fine. But, if this is not paid the case will be taken to court, with a possible fine of up to £1,000.

For two years Forest has lobbied the Scottish Government and MSPs not to introduce a comprehensive ban on smoking on hospital grounds.

If it meant that smokers could still light up on the grounds we were prepared (reluctantly) to accept an exclusion zone around the entrance so when I was told about the Scottish Government letter on Friday my first reaction was we had won a compromise of sorts.

I was wrong. The letter (which you can download here) makes it clear that:

The aim of introducing new offences in respect of hospital buildings is to support existing NHS smoking policies in hospital grounds. These offences do not replace the existing ban on smoking in the whole hospital grounds or suggest that people could smoke freely further away from buildings. 

In other words, the proposed regulation is in addition to the existing ban on smoking on hospital grounds. Instead of restricting the ban to a 15-metre zone around hospital buildings, the Scottish Government is upping the ante by threatening to fine anyone caught smoking in the 'zone'.

If there's one (very small) consolation, the Sunday Herald adds:

The Scottish Government said the zone will apply only in designated areas within hospital grounds, and would not extend to a public street.

Not yet anyway. How long before ASH Scotland starts lobbying to extend smoking bans to public roads?

Anyway, this is a good example of the harassment smokers face on a daily basis in the UK.

Instead of being allowed to use their own judgement and common sense, adults are increasingly being subjected to local government diktat on smoking in outdoor public places.

More and more employers are refusing to allow people to smoke during working hours.

Adults who smoke are being told they can't adopt or foster children under 12.

'Plain' packs with gory images are replacing branded packs in shops.

And so it goes on.

Tobacco control campaigners are currently lobbying government to increase tobacco taxation (as if it's not hign enough already), ban smoking on stage and screen, prohibit smoking in all private vehicles (regardless of the presence of children) and restrict the number and location of shops allowed to sell tobacco.

In other words the net is getting tighter by the day yet the silence from all sides, including many in the so-called 'libertarian' community, is deafening because all they want to talk about is e-cigarettes!!

Btw, if you're wondering who will enforce this new regulation, here's the answer:

The new arrangements will be enforced by local authority officers rather than by hospital staff. However, NHS staff will be able to report incidents to these officers.

Enforcement officers would then be able to issue fixed penalty notices or refer particularly bad cases to the Procurator Fiscal.

Anti-smoking campaigners, including the Scottish Government, will no doubt claim there is public support for such measures.

However a poll conducted by Populus for Forest in July 2016 found that only ten per cent of the public believe that tackling smoking is a very important priority for local government.

The Sunday Herald has our full response to the Scottish Government letter to health board chiefs:

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ campaign group Forest, said: "It’s disgraceful that patients, visitors and staff may be threatened with fines for smoking in the open air.

The impact on non-smokers is minimal so this is a gross over-reaction.

The only saving grace is that penalties will be restricted to those who smoke within 15 metres of a hospital building.

In that sense this is a compromise of sorts, but it still discriminates against patients who are in wheelchairs or seriously infirm.

If they have any compassion regulators would exempt the most infirm patients from these regulations."

He added: "Expecting local authorities to enforce new regulations on smoking will place an even greater burden on them at a time when most people think there are far more important priorities for local government."

The paper also has a very revealing comment from Sheila Duffy, CEO of ASH Scotland. After admitting that "the great majority of smokers ... do not smoke on hospital grounds" she informed the paper that:

The success of the legislation, which was introduced under the Health Act 2016 earlier this year, should not be measured by the number of fines or prosecutions, but in helping promote a "culture change" to stop the behaviour happening in the first place.

Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, smoking in cars with children.

In other words, anti-smoking legislation is now being introduced not to tackle a genuine or alleged problem but to demonise smokers in the eyes of the non-smoking public.

This is what anti-smokers mean by "culture change". They want smoking to be seen as furtive, even criminal, behaviour.

Ex-smoking vapers may think that because they have been spared such regulations they can ignore them, but they're wrong.

Ten, 15 or 20 years, it's just a matter of time, because if COP7 demonstrated anything it's that the most senior and influential tobacco control campaigners do not differentiate between tobacco and nicotine.

Is that likely to change? As things stand, I can't see it.

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Reader Comments (22)

This is complete madness. There is no saving grace, as this is just a slice of the salami; next will be 20m, 30m, the whole hospital grounds, the adjacent public streets and so on. Before long, you won't be able to smoke in a locality which has a hospital!
I'll quote David Hockney from Dailymail article a few years ago:

Who is going to stand up for the England of freedom? Baldwin, Attlee, Churchill, Macmillan and Wilson were five Prime Ministers who smoked. They wouldn’t believe what has happened to this country. The low-grade, low-intellect people now ruling us seem to have no vision at all.
Mr Lansley, Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg: Keep out of my life. I don’t want your dreary view of life infecting me. It’s not good for my health, or others around me.

Read more:

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 13:32 | Unregistered CommenterAna

So I am curious about that 50-goes-to-1000 thing. Is that really just the max it can hit if someone ignores a citation, multiple demands to pay, refuses to appear in court, and so on. Or is it one of those "if you challenge this in court we will make you pay for that; you will have to pay 20 times as much". That matters a lot. In the USA, we have a terrible problem of things that look like the latter, which are used mainly to abuse the powerless.

An empowered smoker who was given a citation ought to be able to demand a trial, demanding evidence that he was really smoking, was really within the banned space, etc. That would be key for protecting civil liberties (apart from the loss of civil liberties from the banned space, of course). But if he would be punished even more severely for demanding his day in court, that would be a licence to harass, with busybodies finding a pliable constable willing to issue citations for events he did not witness, on their say-so, and the like. That is a particularly chilling prospect.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 13:39 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

I have been saying for a long time that the aim is now to criminalise the industry and the consumer. Clearly the bullies are on course to achieve that. It's not about health. it is about intolerance and hatred by powerful lobbyists posing as charities that have no body or independent watchdog to stop them discriminating and abusing legitimate consumers who are forced to pay their salaries and fund their lifestyles.

It doesn't matter that we are not harming anyone else and in the open air there isn't a single study to suggest we are. This has moved from a heath campaign to hate campaign. Normal govts do not fund hate campaigns and that says a lot about the SNP.

If I was Scottish I would leave the country. I hope Sturgeon calls another referendum and the Scotttish bugger off and leave the sane in the rest of the UK alone.

I am sure Strugeon can make new alliances with North Korea, Islamic State, Turkmenistan and other smoke free countries that use force and violence against citizens who don't do as they are told.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 13:59 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Yes the sooner the Scots vote for Independence and float off into their bankrupt republic the better. These anti smoking zealots need dealing with.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 16:03 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

These draconian proposals need to be challenged at every step. We can't give up in the face of this totalitarian hysteria. I say double down on resistance and expand the coalition for Liberty.

I also suggest that FOREST send (re-send?) copies of "Smoked Out" to all Members of the Scottish Parliament. Holyrood must know this tyranny won't go unopposed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 18:48 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I work in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The main entrance is now the unofficial "smoking area". Can you tell me why I and others have to come to work or to visit a loved one while making my way through a cloud of disgusting smoke?

Not only that where smokers stand is directly underneath patient windows, many of whom have have complex and serious operations, patients who are palliative and in the summer time when the temperatures are high cannot open the windows as smoke from below breezes in.
Please do not tell me I am overreacting - please feel free to come and see for yourself.

If people want to smoke then go somewhere far from a hospital entrance or directly underneath patient's windows!

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 19:46 | Unregistered CommenterChris Findlay

"Can you tell me why I and others have to come to work or to visit a loved one while making my way through a cloud of disgusting smoke?"

Because the Govt banned the smoking rooms?

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 21:00 | Unregistered CommenterJay

The bans already in place in Scotlands hospital grounds are voluntary as they could were not covered by the indoor smoking ban. Therefore the new bans coming out will only apply to the 15 or so metres. So saying that, the smoking ban should have maintained a room inside set aside for smokers.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 21:59 | Unregistered CommenterD Kerr

£31.5bn lost in sin taxes.

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 1:10 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

"Can you tell me why I and others have to come to work or to visit a loved one while making my way through a cloud of disgusting smoke? ... Please do not tell me I am overreacting"

Yes, you are overreacting. The fact that you dislike the smoke (your right and privilege) does not mean it will make you (or hospital patients) sick. The simple solution is not to concentrate smokers in a small area near the entrance. When smoking was allowed in airplane cabins (a well ventilated but indoor environment) measured CO and particle matter concentrations were lower than in city air in typical small-medium traffic conditions.

Now, tobacco smoke is diluted by a factor of at least 1/100000 in outdoor conditions. There is a study, "Real-time measurements of outdoor tobacco smoke particles", by Klepeis, Ott and Switzer. These authors are connected to tobacco control, so they cannot be suspect of downplaying hazards from tobacco smoke. Yet, can clearly read in the abstract: "OTS [Outdoor Tobacco Smoke] in a constant upwind direction from an active cigarette source were nearly zero. OTS levels also approached zero at distances greater than 2 meters from a single cigarette". The near zero means less than 1 pico-gram (zero point twelve zeroes one) per cubic meter, a concentration so small that it requires extremely costly equipment to measure.

The concentration you would breath from a whistle of smoke emitted at 1 meter and carried by the wind to your nose is of the order of one micro-gram pr cubic meter, smaller than concentrations of pollutants in typical light traffic air. This concentration is within the sensitivity of our smelling sense, so you smell it and you complain, but many of the air pollutants at similar or higher concentration (CO or nitrogen oxids) are odorless, so you do not complain even if these pollutants can be more harmful to you than "disgusting" tobacco smoke.

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 2:28 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

Chris, like Roberto I also think you're over-reacting, though I accept these things are subjective. I've visited hospitals many times and as a non-smoker I've never been troubled by people smoking outside the entrance. Instead, I've felt sorry for patients who have to stand outside to have a cigarette. I know some NHS staff are sympathetic to patients who want to smoke - and will actually take them outside if they need assistance - but compassion within the NHS is clearly limited.

Nevertheless, thanks for commenting. Next time I am in Edinburgh (in the next couple of months) I will take up your offer to visit the Royal Infirmary and see for myself. As an aside, my children were both born at the old Royal Infirmary (Simpson Memorial).

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:50 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Roberto isn't over-reacting by stating a fact. Ambulances/taxis etc idling outside hospital entrances will emit far, far, greater levels of particulates than all the smokers combined. It's just not that obvious, other than during very cold weather. Who hasn't at some point placed one's palm within a foot of an exhaust pipe for a few seconds and not come away with a dirty hand? Or hasn't noticed the filth of walls at exhaust pipe height in car parks, etc? Or has been at a bus stop or in an enclosed bus station and not noticed the stink/exhaust haze?

Another David

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 12:04 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

When my children were born smoking was allowed on the ward and in the TV room. Smokerphobia and an abject fear of a wisp of smoke is a new phenomenon brought about by scaremongering by bigots with an agenda.

So what if people don't like the smell. I can think of loads of everyday smells that make me want to be sick but I never complain because I believe in live and let live.

There is also a huge amount of snobbery about smoking which chris demonstrates.

If smokerphobics like Chris hate us and smoking so much, they should campaign either for us to be back inside a designated room that no antismoker ever has to enter, or support the idea of a smoking shed outside.

But then why would people like that support the common sense way forward because it might just be fair to both sides. It better fits their social smuggery to push for those vile, selfish, pathetic addicts to one day be imprisoned for smoking because then, thanks to the prison ban, they can finally be forced to stop.

Before then, however, no doubt the Chrises of this world will happily benefit from the financial extortion of smokers while whining how much they cost the NHS.

Just leave us alone. We've had more than enough of being bullied.

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 12:27 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Chris Findlay, you are overreacting.

I am a frequent visitor to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and your suggestion of a "cloud of disgusting smoke" is just hyperbolic nonsense. Yes, people smoke near to the main entrance, but, other than when it is raining heavily, nearly all wander a few yards away from the entrance to smoke - including in the (alleged) 'smoking shelter'. I have never seen anyone smoking right by the main doors.

There is no smoke cloud as the smoke just dissipates on the breeze, and doesn't hang in the air. Unless one walks past a person who exhales smoke at the exact time of your passing, there is no smoke to be "disgusted" by.

Furthermore, there are no "patients' rooms" on the ground floor, most wards being on the second floor and above - and there are no wards with windows over the main entrance.

So yes, you are overreacting, but we both know that it is a deliberate, dishonest and malevolent overreaction, don't we?

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 13:52 | Unregistered CommenterBrianB

Personally i love the smell of tobacco smoke particularly a good Oriental, and even more so if I am smoking it ! The amount of money smokers contribute to the public coffers should ensure first class priority NHS service from people like Chris Findlay.

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 15:44 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

As an aside to Timothy, I find (and quite ironically) that I enjoy the smell of tobacco smoke more since I stopped smoking cigarettes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 2:14 | Unregistered CommenterNate

Brian - I WORK at the RIE and YES there are people smoking RIGHT outside the main door!!! I will meet up with you if you like and show you? And not once did I say there are wards on the ground floor. There are offices and out patient department though. Who wants to have smoke bellow in? Not me, not them! And YES there are wards DIRECTLY overlooking the main entrance and they often complain of the smoke the streams in. Know your facts Brian instead of talking rubbish. Again, happy to meet with you and show you! Doubt you'll take me up on it though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 12:35 | Unregistered CommenterChris Findlay

Pat - smokerphobic? I'm a nurse and look after many smokers - often dying horrific deaths after years of polluting their own bodies. And that's it in a nutshell really - pollute your OWN bodies and not that of anyone else's. It's your choice NOT mine! Smoke doesn't disapate into the air like so many smokers claim, it's lingers, sticks to your clothes and breath - it's vile. You wanna smoke the sod off back home and smoke there. Patients lying dying and ill and relatives worried sick do NOT want to have to put up with YOUR disgusting habit and the health risks you subject them to.

Smokers - the most selfish people I have ever met.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 12:41 | Unregistered CommenterChris Findlay

No one is polluting your body as you walk past a smoker hence you are smokerphobic for thinking so.

My habit is only disgusting to a smokerphobic. You are smokerphobic. I have a friend who has never smoked in her life. Guess what? She loves the smell of tobacco.

I am not a nurse but my mother and two sisters were and I can assure you they never spoke to a smoker the way you do neither did they believe that only smoking causes death. They would have been pretty useless nurses had they done so.

As a former court reporter I saw many cases involving fatal car accidents. By your logic, everyone will die in a car accident and those who drive should just stop driving or be treated as second class citizens because they won't - especially given the way they pollute our bodies when driving past us.

Personally, if faced with you as a nurse I'd rather stay away from hospital. I would not trust your care. If a smoker came in need of urgent treatment after a heart attack, and a non smoker came in needing the same at the same time - who would you prioritise?

I think we all know. You are smokerphobic. Go look in the mirror and think about your offensive behaviour.

Remember the Hippocratic Oath? You should not judge, insult, abuse or mistreat anyone based on their lifestyle even if you hate it or disagree with the way they live their lives.

Our NHS needs less nurses like you in my honest opinion and frankly after almost 50 years of smoking and paying tax without having one single penny back in healthcare for an alleged "smoking related illness" I am sick to the back teeth of funding people like you and your salary who are the loudest in calling for smokers not to be treated on the NHS - nor to get back in older age the care they have paid for over a lifetime.

You are a smokerphobic. You are hysteric about a wisp of smoke. Leave us alone. We have had more than enough of your sort.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 14:08 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Selfish??? You are the one who wants the whole world to yourself both indoors and outdoors and every place in between that you wouldn't even go to.

You have no idea of what the word share means.

As I said, in every way and every word you prove one thing - you are smokerphobic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 14:11 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

" pollute your OWN bodies and not that of anyone else's. It's your choice NOT mine!"

Actually, I am happy that you are still posting, as we smokers should start engaging anti-smokers.

There are is no scientific basis on your overreaction to outdoor tobacco smoke. I made this abundantly clear in my post, there is no need to repeat the hard data.

I am old enough to remember times when smoking was allowed everywhere. In those days the demand for smoke-free spaces was legitimate and made sense. Today, with all the smoking bans and state sponsored vilification of smoking (and thus of smokers by implication) this argument simply reveals prejudice and intolerance that cannot be justified by the real (and alleged) harms from smoking. The "horrible deaths" from smoking you claim to have seen do not afford you a license to abuse smokers.

Yet, even if you don't believe it, most smokers (myself included) do respect your right to smoke-free spaces. In reciprocity we also demand from people like you (and from the authorities) the right to indoor spaces were we can smoke without being exposed to rain or snow and without bothering those who dislike the smell. We also demand to be respected and not vilified. If these demands were met by the RIE you would have no cause for complaining. Think about it.

You should understand that people react harshly when disrespected and bullied, even if those doing this claim to be "saving lives". As long as you keep treating us smokers as selfish and deliberate air poisoners, then don't expect us to be nice and civil with you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 5:42 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

Exactly Roberto. We have always moved out and away always. We take issue now because it doesn't matter where we go they will still expect yet another few feet of open space to which we are all entitled.

We are not the ones who want it all. Good luck with that engagement thing. Blind intolerance based on fear and prejudice never leads to debate just demands from them.

And, incidentally, I was sat smoking with a nurse recently who told me 80% of her cancer patients never smoked.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 11:16 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

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