Smokers in hospital grounds ‘could face £1,000 fine’

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Smokers who light up in Forth Valley hospital grounds could be hit with a £1,000 fine, if new proposals on restrictions win Holyrood backing.

One of the politicians pressing for sanctions is Alex Neil MSP, who has been campaigning to eradicate smoking from NHS premises for years - and who reportedly thinks new, tougher measures are needed to solve a long-standing problem.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government announced plans to ban smoking within 15 metres of a hospital building, backed with the threat of a £50 spot fine - but Mr Neil is among those who insist a far more serious maximum penalty is needed.

Health boards have repeatedly tried to persuade people to quit smoking inside hospital gates since the smoking ban was introduced back in 2006 - but with very little success.

Despite prominent no-smoking signs it remains common to see smokers (sometimes including hospital staff) clustered around entrances and exits used by the public.

However while a ban on smoking has been effective in premises like bars or offices there’s no legal restriction on smoking in open spaces - such as hospital grounds or public parks.

Mr Neil sees this is an anomaly where hospitals are concerned, and has made it clear he strongly supports the idea of legislation that would turn hospital grounds into no-go areas for smokers - just like pubs.

Last year the Falkirk Herald reported how smokers were refusing to quit smoking in the grounds of the acute hospital in Larbert, despite a no-smoking policy on all NHS Forth Valley’s hospital sites.

Dr Graham Foster, NHS Forth Valley’s director of public health, said then: “It’s very disappointing that, despite ongoing efforts to prevent smoking outside our hospitals, a number of people continue to light up.”