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BMA (NI) gives resounding welcome to smoking ban announcement, Northern Ireland

October 11, 2017

The British Medical Association in Northern Ireland has given a resounding welcome to the decision by NI Health Minister, Shaun Woodward MP, to introduce a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces in Northern Ireland.

BMA(NI) Chairman, Dr Brian Patterson, said it was a great day for the health of the people of Northern Ireland. "Minister Woodward has shown courage in making this decision and we will give him our full support in taking it to implementation. He has listened to the people of Northern Ireland and held his nerve in deciding to give them the total ban for which they have called.

"We urge the politicians to now move through the legislation process as rapidly as possible because delay costs lives. Each week one person in Northern Ireland dies from inhaling other people's tobacco smoke so it is imperative that no more time is lost."

Dr Peter Maguire, Deputy Chairman of the BMA's Board of Science, said it was wonderful news for the health of all workers in Ulster. "At last there will be the same protection for workers here as in the Republic of Ireland. Scotland's workforce will also be fully protected from April 2006 and we will keep up the pressure on our politicians to make sure that no time is wasted implementing the ban here."

Speaking on behalf of The BMA's public health committee in NI, Vice Chairman Dr Colin Hamilton said: "The BMA has campaigned for 20 years to introduce controls on smoking in all enclosed public places. This excellent news is not about restricting civil liberties, it is about protecting workers and non-smokers from the effects of harmful tobacco smoke.

"It is vital that all employers and those responsible for enclosed public places comply with future legislation. However, we know that because smoking is an addiction it is difficult for smokers to stop or often even to cut down on their tobacco intake. It is important therefore that Government increases its investment in smoking-cessation programmes in order to help those who want to quit."

Reaction from the BMA in Great Britain:

Dr Peter Terry, Chairman of BMA Scotland said: "Congratulations to Northern Ireland for joining the smoke free movement. BMA Scotland is delighted that the population of Northern Ireland will soon benefit from comprehensive protection from the deadly effects of second hand smoke. We welcome this move and would urge Westminster and the Welsh Assembly to follow suit."

Dr Tony Calland, Chairman of BMA Wales said: "News that Northern Ireland is to benefit from a total ban on smoking in public places is excellent and to be welcomed. We envy you cleaner air and better health which a ban will bring.

"Wales was the first UK country to want such a ban: our Assembly voted in 2003. Unfortunately, we have to rely on England for legislation and bide our time."

Dr Sam Everington, BMA(UK) Deputy Chairman, made the following comment: "The BMA congratulates the NI Health Minister for listening to the evidence on second-hand smoke, putting the health of the people of Northern Ireland first and having the courage to introduce a ban.

"We hope the Health Secretary in England, Patricia Hewitt, will follow the example and leadership shown by her colleagues in Belfast."