Under 18s Banned From Buying E-cigs
3 March 2016, 17:50
Health campaigners have welcomed the passing of a Bill that will restrict the sale of e-cigarettes and make it illegal to smoke in parts of hospital grounds.
Measures that require the NHS to provide equipment and support to people who lose their voices as a result of health conditions have also been hailed by activists, including Motor Neurone Disease (MND) patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman.
MSPs unanimously backed the Scottish Government's Health Bill in a final vote at the Scottish Parliament.
The legislation will ban under-18s from buying e-cigarettes and limit their advertising, as well as make it an offence to smoke within designated no-smoking areas around buildings in NHS hospital grounds.
Public health minister Maureen Watt said: "While they (e-cigarettes) are almost certainly safer than cigarettes, and have a role to help people quit smoking, we don't want children to take them up, and that's why we are proposing these age restrictions.
"Making it an offence to smoke near hospital buildings is common sense, and it will help NHS boards to enforce their existing smoke-free policies.
"Hospitals are places people go to recover from illness, and they shouldn't have to walk through clouds of smoke.''
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health charity Ash Scotland, said the legislation is "sensible and proportionate''.
She said: "Electronic cigarettes can have a part to play in reducing smoking. We need to help them play a positive role while keeping them out of the hands of children.
"We can't lose sight of the most important issue in this discussion - reducing the enormous harm caused by tobacco use.
"It's right that e-cigarettes are regulated. But the most restrictive regulation must always apply to the most harmful product, tobacco.''
Ms Duffy said the new law on hospital smoking would "help protect more people from smoke drift and put smoking out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion''.
Mr Aikman, who had lobbied for action on communication support, said: "Losing my voice is by far the thing I fear most about MND, it's so scary I try not to think about it.
"The right to a voice is yet another welcome step that will transform care and improve the quality of life of people living with MND and many other conditions.''
The Health Bill will also create specific criminal offences for health and social care workers who are found to be deliberately mistreating those in their care, and require health and social care organisations to be open when a patient has suffered unintended harm during treatment or care, through a statutory duty of candour.
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said: "In those instances where there is ill-treatment and wilful neglect, it should be the duty of health and social care bodies to recognise their responsibility and be held to account.
"The imposition of the statutory requirement must be accompanied by the right education and support to all staff. It is crucial that they receive adequate training and support around the duty of candour.''