Monday, March 1, 2021
Today, Wales extended the prohibition on smoking at hospitals, schools, and playgrounds, with violators to face a £100 fine. Wales is the first of the UK nations to introduce this ban.
This is in addition to various restrictions on the practice, including a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces in place since 2007 and a ban on smoking in cars with children in place since 2015.
The Welsh government, governed by left-wing party Welsh Labour, said the measure was to discourage adults and children alike from smoking by making it appear less normal, and encourage the already partaking to quit.
Two hospitals in the country’s south have installed a button-activated speaker system to remind people hospitals are smoke-free. In 2016, a similar mechanism was tried at hospitals across Wales, where an announcement recorded by local school children would play upon pressing a button.
Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing, and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said she was “immensely proud to have brought into force this law”, and “[t]his legislation will benefit the health of future generations in Wales, as fewer children will be exposed to smoking”. She concluded, “[w]e need to do everything we can to combat the harmful effects of smoking.”
The government was criticised by many smokers rights groups. Simon Clark, Director of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco compared the law to “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, saying: “There is no evidence that smoking in the open air poses a risk to anyone else’s health, including children.” The director further explained, “Banning smoking on hospital grounds is particularly unjust because it targets smokers who may be stressed and in need of a comforting cigarette. Most smokers use their common sense and don’t smoke around small children. They don’t need politicians telling them how to behave.”
Wikinews contacted Eluned Morgan’s office to know more about this ban.