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NHS Trust conducts poll on smoking in hospital grounds

An NHS Trust in Colchester wants to ban smoking in hospital grounds, forcing smokers to walk 300 yards to a busy main road if they want to light up.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust used No Smoking Day to launch a poll on its proposals. You must respond online before March 31, but why wait (hint hint).

The local paper has the story, with a quote from me, here: Trust bosses want to make hospitals completely smoke-free.

Click here for the survey.


Scotland's smoking ban - battle not over

In ten days Scotland will "celebrate" the fifth anniversary of the public smoking ban north of the border.

Last week I spoke to journalists from two newspapers - the Mail on Sunday (Scotland) and Scotland on Sunday - and their reports duly appeared at the weekend.

SoS asked Five years on, just what has the smoking ban really achieved and are we seeing a backlash?:

"There is still a great deal of anger in some quarters," says Simon Clark, director of Forest and the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign.

"It is certainly true that the majority of smokers have adapted to the ban, but it's one thing to have a high compliance rate, and quite another to claim it's hugely popular. The reason for the high compliance rate is that the penalties for flouting the ban are quite severe, not so much if you're a smoker, but if you're a landlord who turns a blind eye to smoking. Not only can you be fined several thousands of pounds, but you could potentially lose your licence."

Clark accepts that, having got used to smoke-free pubs and bars, non-smokers are unlikely to support a change in the law, but he wants to see it reviewed. "What we want is a small amendment that would allow those pubs and clubs that have the capability of offering a separate well-ventilated smoking room," he says. "You would keep the smokers well away from the non-smokers, so they would never need to be exposed. The bar staff wouldn't have to go in for at least an hour afterwards."

Clark says most European countries allow such rooms, but Ash Scotland thinks the suggestion is laughable. "We say what we've always said. A no-smoking zone in a pub is like a no-urinating zone in a swimming pool. Smoke will always drift through," says [chief executive Sheila] Duffy.

In a report headlined 'Five years on ... 740 pubs have pulled their last pint thanks to the smoking ban', the MoS disclosed that:

More than one in ten of Scotland's pubs – 740 in total - have gone out of business since the smoking ban came into force five years ago this month.

And while the country's 14 health boards say it has helped 174,222 Scots stop smoking, the licensed trade warns the closures have cost about 1,200 jobs, many in rural areas where pubs are significant sources of employment.

Now industry officials and pro-smoking lbbyists plan to launch a fresh challenge to the ban at Holyrood, warning it is pushing Scots into dangerous, 'uncontrolled' home drinking environments.

They want MSPs to allow special licenses to pubs so that they can establish designated 'smoking rooms', which are cordoned off from non-smokers.

The drive is being spearheaded by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) and the pro-smoking lobby group Forest.

Watch this space.


The bully state re-emerges

On today:

Think tanks, pressure groups and Conservative activists are appalled by the government's U-turn on tobacco display and the decision to consider plain packaging.

Full article: The bully state re-emerges in Andrew Lansley's anti-smoking crusade.

You can comment.

See also posts by Helen Evans, director, Nurses for Reform, and Tom Clougherty, director, Adam Smith Institute. Both are referred to in my article.

PS. I could have added this post by Iain Dale - A nonsensical attitude to smoking (Total Politics) - but I forgot. I am sure there are several more.


Tobacco display ban - news and interviews

Tobacco display ban report on Channel 4 News last week. Includes a soundbite from me.

To hear an interview with me on Five Live Drive, click here before Wednesday. You'll find it at 2:18:40.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was interviewed on the same programme at 00:21:30.


Welcome to the promise land

Back from Ireland but busy writing an article so things may be a little quiet for a while.

Did I mention that I am flying back to Dublin on Saturday? I have been promised tickets for the Ireland-England match at the new Aviva Stadium. In Ireland however a promise is no guarantee so I have booked my flight, and a hotel close to the ground, in hope rather than expectation.

Fingers crossed.


Vice squad

New post by Tom Miers on The Free Society:

There’s something rather comforting about the thought of our leaders indulging in a little vice. It makes them somehow more human, more tangible. Once upon a time Clegg, Cameron, Blair, Obama, all of them dared to light up for the first time, perhaps disregarding the rules of household or school, trying out something, well, slightly naughty.

Full post: Think how much better off we'd be if our political leaders indulged in a few vices.


No rest for the wicked

Just back from London where I was interviewed by Five Live Drive and Channel 4 News.

Earlier I gave interviews on behalf of Forest to BBC Radio Sussex, Radio Devon, Radio Cambridgeshire, Radio Solent, Radio Sheffield and Radio Essex.

Meanwhile, representing The Free Society, my colleague Tom Miers was interviewed by Radio Cumbria, Radio Merseyside and Radio Lincolnshire.

I'd sleep well tonight ... if I didn't have to get up at 3.30 to drive to Stansted to catch an early morning (6.20) flight to Cork.

There really is no rest for the wicked.


That tobacco control plan in full

The Department of Health has now released its Tobacco Control Plan.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has confirmed plans to implement Labour legislation to ban the display of tobacco in shops.

Retailers will be given additional time to prepare. The regulations will now begin on 6 April 2012 for large stores and 6 April 2015 for all other shops.

On plain packaging, "the Government has an open mind and wants to hear views". There will be a consultation and an "assessment of the impact" before the end of 2011.

Quoting directly from the written statement, the Tobacco Control Plan has three "national ambitions" to reduce smoking rates in England by the end of 2015:

  • From 21.2 per cent to 18.5 per cent or less among adults
  • From 15 per cent to 12 per cent or less among 15 year olds, and
  • From 14 per cent to 11 per cent or less among pregnant mothers

"These ambitions represent reductions in smoking rates that exceed the reductions we have seen in the past five years."

The Government has set out key actions in the following six areas:

  • stopping the promotion of tobacco;
  • making tobacco less affordable;
  • effective regulation of tobacco products;
  • helping tobacco users to quit;
  • reducing exposure to secondhand smoke; and
  • effective communications for tobacco control.

Full Government statement here.

See also: Forest attacks tobacco control plans (press release),
Brand ban no way to a Big Society (Tom Miers, The Free Society)