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June 28th, 2008:

Smoking Ban Forces Record Numbers To Quit

By Patrick Sawer – Last updated: 8:06 AM BST 28/06/2008 – Telegraph News

The smoking ban in pubs, clubs and restaurants has been described as the “single most important health measure for a generation” after record numbers are shown to have quit the habit last year.

A leaked report shows 234,060 people gave up smoking in the months immediately before and after the law was introduced a year ago – a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

The report by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, says that 76 per cent of people support the ban on smoking in the workplace and other public places while just three per cent of businesses reported a negative impact on trade.

The report, to be officially published on the July 1 anniversary, also shows that 98 per cent of premises inspected complied with the smoke-free legislation.

Air quality in pubs and restaurants has also improved dramatically since July 1 last year. Pollution levels fell 91 per cent inside pubs and restaurants after the ban and is “now comparable to outside air”.

At the same time bar workers showed a 76 per cent reduction in nicotine levels.

In the foreword to his report, Sir Liam says: “The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be underestimated.

“A significant reduction in second-hand smoke with its damaging health effects has been achieved. We expect many lives will have been saved. Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier environment.”

Amanda Sandford, of the campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health, said last night: “This is great news.”

Ministers are set to use the anniversary of the smoking ban in England next week to publicise its success.

However Sir Liam argues more needs to be done to persuade smokers to give up. From this autumn graphic picture warnings are to be printed on cigarette packets, a move described by Sir Liam as “essential”. Ministers are also planning to ban packs of 10, stop newsagents displaying cigarettes and outlaw cigarette vending machines.

Sir Liam said: “The smoking epidemic is far from solved. Tobacco kills 87,000 people annually in England alone. It remains the single greatest cause of preventable illness.”

England was the last part of the UK to ban smoking in public places and workplaces. Bans were introduced in Scotland in 2006 and in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.

The British Beer and Pub Association said the smoking ban has had a devastating effect on pubs, with 1,409 pubs closing in 2007 compared with 216 in 2006 – a rate of nearly 30 a week.

Quit-Smoking Option Expenses Spelled Out

May Chan – Jun 28, 2008 – SCMP

A Democratic lawmaker’s proposal to offer smoking offenders a quit course would require the government to pay half the cost of treatment, the Food and Health Bureau says.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo made the suggestion last week in an amendment to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance as the Legislative Council considered a government plan to introduce a HK$1,500 fixed penalty for offenders.

The current penalty provides only for offenders to be summonsed to court, where they may be fined up to HK$5,000 – but usually the amount is just a fraction of that.

Mr Cheng said smokers should have a choice of either paying the fixed penalty or paying for a course on quitting.

But in a letter to Legco, the bureau said the average cost of a 12-week course was about HK$3,000.

If a fifth of the projected number of fined smokers opted for the course, the government would have to budget an extra HK$2.8 million. And in the interest of fairness, HK$2.9 million would be needed to subsidise smokers who voluntarily attended cessation clinics.

It may also have to pay HK$13 million to set up four extra clinics.

Overall, Mr Cheng’s proposal would cost HK$18.7 million a year.

The bureau estimates there will be 8,000 prosecutions this year, but if the fine is introduced it estimates total number of smokers penalised this year will rise 20 per cent to 9,600.

Mr Cheng said he was worried that his proposal – due to go before a Legco bills committee on Wednesday – might not even be discussed because of the costs stated in the letter.

He reiterated that if illegal smokers were allowed the option, it would save expenses on medical services.

“Even if I don’t put forward this proposal, the government is still responsible for increasing expenditures on smoking cessation services,” Mr Cheng said.

The smoking ban, covering some designated outdoor areas and all indoor public areas, came into force on January 1 last year.

A total of 5,929 summonses were issued from January 1 last year to April 30 this year for breaches.