up in smoke

SMOKING is to be banned in enclosed public places in Scotland, the Scottish Executive has announced.

But the controversial news was greeted with mixed reactions from residents of Deeside and Donside, whose lives will be affected by the legislation.

The decision, which was a unanimous one by Scottish ministers, was announced in the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister, Jack McConnell yesterday (Wednesday).

Doctors and anti-tobacco groups had urged the executive to opt for a ban to improve public health.

Licensees have vowed to fight the ban, which follows similar moves by Ireland, Norway and parts of the USA.

The majority of local pub workers and customers The Piper spoke to yesterday were against the ban.

Jim Rooney, director of the Stag Hotel in Banchory, said: “It depends how it's implemented, but I think it will be detrimental to the bar trade in general, as it has been in Ireland.”

Phil McDevitt, proprietor of The Crossroads Hotel in Lumphanan, said he didn't think the ban would do them any good.

“I'm doubtful if it will increase trade,” he said. “Personally I think it would be better to increase public awareness and use education instead of enforcement”.

Darren Gimber, manager of the Kildrummy Inn, Kildrummy, added: “I'm not 100% sure how it would affect our business but I'm not in favour of a blanket ban. I think there should be segregated areas for smokers”.

Graham Brechin, a barman at The Vale Hotel in Alford, said:

“I'm a smoker myself so I'm not really bothered, although some nights it can really do your head in.

“I think it should be up to the individual licensee and there should be segregation areas rather than a blanket ban”.

Andrew Cox, manager Loch Kinord Hotel, Dinnet, said: “I would be against the ban for business reasons, as it would affect our trade. It's hard enough to survive in a rural location anyway. Most of our locals are smokers and I feel that they would stay at home.

“People have to make a special effort to come out here. I don't think a ban would encourage them”.

Charlie Grant, manager of Parkers Lounge Bar, Banchory, said: “A blanket ban is far, far too much. We have a nightclub and I think a ban would definitely lose us trade — special smoking areas would be a much better idea.”

Robert Melvin, manager of the Burnett Arms Hotel in Banchory, felt that an overall ban was ridiculous.

“The bar trade is already conscious of issues surrounding smoking. Turnover in licensed premises in Ireland is now down by 25% — that means jobs”.

Craig Mason, barman at The Stag Hotel in Banchory, added: “Im used to it, smoke doesn't bother me”.

Craig Innes, a customer at the Stag Hotel in Banchory, said: “It's out of order. I'd definitely stay in or emigrate”.

Cliff Gill, a customer at The Burnett Arms Hotel in Banchory, said: “How will the government replace the lost tax revenue? It's too late for most folk to give up anyway.”

Another customer from the Douglas Arms, Banchory, added: “It's the pensioners I feel sorry for. There is a man comes in here who is 86, he has a whisky and a pipe. Who is going to tell him he can't do it anymore?”

However, some greeted the news with pleasure. One Banchory drinker said: “I think it's about time people can go into their local and get a drink without being surrounded by smokers.

“Surely this ban will bring more non-smokers into pubs and encourage families to eat in pubs, where before they may have stayed away because of the smoky atmosphere.”

MSP Mike Rumbles said: “Every year 13,000 Scots die of smoking related illness. Every year smoking related illness accounts for 35,000 hospital admissions and costs the NHS in Scotland some 200 million.

”The medical evidence is irrefutable that smoking, and that includes passive smoking, kills.”

Mr McConnell told MSPs that the ban would be in force from the spring of 2006. He said the health arguments far outweighed lingering public disquiet about a complete ban and claims by the licensed trade that jobs would be lost.

Bill O'Neill, Scottish secretary of the British Medical Association, said: “Scots continue to suffer from passive smoke-related illnesses and significant numbers die.

“International experience shows that comprehensive tobacco control programmes, supported by national legislation, work.”

Andrew Powrie Smith, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said they were delighted.

“The damaging health effects of secondhand smoke are clear and people in Scotland have the right to work in a smoke-free environment,” he said. “More than 800,000 people in Scotland have a lung condition and all of them are severely aggravated by exposure to secondhand smoke”.

Professor Alex Markham, of Cancer Research UK, said a ban on smoking in public in Scotland could signal the biggest step forward in the fight against cancer for a generation.

The British Heart Foundation, also urged the executive to follow Ireland's lead.

Leader of the Royal College of Nurses in Scotland, James Kennedy, said decisive action was needed to tackle Scotland's poor public health record.

Jim Devine, spokesman for the public services union Unison, said banning smoking in enclosed public places was a basic health and safety matter.

“To continue to allow people to work in smoky environments is the 21st century equivalent of sending children up chimneys,” he said.

The executive has been warned that publicans will fight “tooth and nail” to stop plans for an outright ban on smoking on their premises.

Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said publicans did not agree with a total ban and feared it could destroy their businesses.

He argued that while his members were backing new curbs, a full ban would be disastrous for the trade.

“We have compromise proposals on the table, they are fair, we believe they are workable and we think that we don't have to go to a full ban here,” he said.

* In Scotland, more than 13,000 people die every year from tobacco use.

* Adult smoking rates in Scotland have remained consistently higher than in England and Wales.

* 12 million adults smoke cigarettes in the UK. There are 11 million ex-smokers in the country.

* Scientists estimate that a smoking ban would lead to 5,000 lives being saved annually.

* Around a third of all deaths are caused by smoking – around 50,000 deaths in the UK each year. Up to nine out of 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking.