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Among the success stories of recent years are the total public smoking bans adopted in Europe. And one of the most gratifying aspects has been the speed with which both the workforce newly protected by the ban and the general population in the countries concerned have embraced the benefits of being able to live and work in totally smoke-free environments.
In Scotland, which went smoke-free at the end of last March, more than nine out of 10 bar staff said that their workplaces were healthier in an opinion poll commissioned by Cancer Research UK just 6 months after the ban, with almost eight out of 10 of believing that the legislation would benefit their health in the long term. Even smoking bar workers were overwhelmingly positive about the health effects of the new law, with 89% reporting that their work environment was healthier because of it, and 69% believing that it would benefit their health in the long term. Interestingly, more young people than older people thought that the ban was benefiting their health.
Public health workers in Scotland believe that the success of the Scottish ban could lead to further progress in other areas. It was led from the top, following decisions taken by the still relatively new, devolved Scottish parliament. The fact that they did it well ahead of England, which follows suit in July, has not been lost on Scottish politicians. Nor has the fact that it was the result of clear, health-led political leadership. By contrast, the English ban resulted from what is now a real political rarity, a free vote allowed to members of parliament, uninfluenced by political party managers, to end a fiasco of indecision, U-turns and everything except leadership from the cabinet in London. Buoyed up by success, Scottish politicians may now feel bullish about winning more public health victories ahead of the “ancient enemy” south of the border.