Scotland is to hold a public consultation on banning smoking in public places, the country's deputy health minister said today.
Tom McCabe said the consultation on the introduction of more smoke-free areas would give Scottish people a chance to decide on what they wanted to be done about the issue.
He said: "Many Scots wish to breathe smoke-free air. While we do not wish to curb smokers' personal choice to smoke, the health impacts of a smoky atmosphere must be taken into account.
"Legislation is obviously an option, but all options will be considered. We are seeking to promote good citizenship and ensure smokers are aware of how their second-hand smoke affects others.
"A voluntary charter being operated by the licensed trade has yielded some results, but seven out of 10 pubs still allow smoking throughout their premises and smoke-free pubs and restaurants are still few and far between."
The news comes as Prime Minister Tony Blair added weight to speculation that the Government has decided to crack down on smoking in public places.
Blair told media organisations last week that the Government was considering introducing legal curbs and would make a decision in the "next few months".
He conceded it was a "difficult balance" between protecting the nation's health and being accused of interfering.
One possible route is to leave the decision to local authorities, an option the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has warned would be "an absolute nightmare".
Last month the BHA and the British Beer and Pub Association met culture secretary Tessa Jowell and public health minister Melanie Johnson to discuss the issue.
Feedback from that meeting suggested the Government is expected to announce some form of legislative crackdown later this year, probably as part of its Public Health White Paper.
by Nic Paton
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