Health chief calls for smoking ban

THE chief executive of an NHS organisation striving to improve the health of local residents has called for a ban on smoking in public places.Brendan Osborne, chief executive of Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) said the measure must be implemented as soon as possible.

By Sharon Asplin

THE chief executive of an NHS organisation striving to improve the health of local residents has called for a ban on smoking in public places.

Brendan Osborne, chief executive of Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) said the measure must be implemented as soon as possible.

When the PCT board next meets in January members will vote on a formal resolution to ban smoking in public.

If approved, as is widely expected, it is believed Colchester PCT would be one of the first primary care trusts in the country to call for such a ban.

Mr Osborne's speech at the board meeting follows speculation the Government is to propose the habit is stubbed out in the public health White Paper expected to be published later this month .

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Speaking after the meeting, Mr Osborne said: "If board members support me on this one, we would create a real stir and add to the public debate on this issue, which is something I would very much welcome.

"We will be asking our partners in the Colchester 2020 Local Strategic Partnership, particularly Colchester Borough Council, to support us.

"Personally, I have never smoked but became anti-smoking only in recent years after hearing and understanding the impact on health generally and specifically on dealing with the dreadful fallout."

He added he wanted to see a ban on smoking in confined public spaces, such as pubs, restaurants, theatres and public transport, and strongly disapproved of staff smoking outside public buildings.

Although there was no vote on a ban, Mr Osborne received extensive support, including from Julie Young, a non-executive director of Colchester PCT and also a Colchester borough and Essex county councillor.

David Evans, a co-opted member of the board, said the PCT also needed to encourage Colchester businesses to become smoke free.

Last month, the East of England Public Health Group published the results of the Big Smoke Debate, which showed 84% of the 7,882 people surveyed in the region would prefer public places to be smoke free.

In Essex 86% of people said they wanted smoking banned in public places and 64% were bothered by tobacco smoke in public places.

In Suffolk the figures were 85% and 63% respectively. The survey also showed that four out of five people in the region would back a law to make all workplaces smoke free.

PCT board members were told that the stop smoking support service in Colchester was one of the best in Essex in achieving tough targets.

Colchester PCT and Tendring PCT fund the Colchester & Tendring Stop Smoking Support Service that operates throughout the borough of Colchester and district of Tendring.

In 2003/2004, Colchester was set a target of helping 472 people to quit smoking for a period of at least four weeks and achieved 707 - 49.8% above target - and is on schedule to achieve its target of 945 for 2004/2005.

Sue White, stop smoking co-ordinator for Colchester, said: "We welcome tough targets because we are committed to helping as many people as possible.

"In fact, for us, it's not really about targets but about making a positive contribution to the health of the people of Colchester."

n Smokers who want help can either contact their GP practice or the Colchester & Tendring Stop Smoking Support Service on 0800 731 2656.