Monday, 2 May 2011

China and Wales attempt the impossible

It is widely agreed that the smoking ban in China, implemented yesterday, will not be enforceable, and according to the Telegraph, no penalties are payable for breaches. In this vast country, smoking still features in cultural exchanges and economic deals, and smoking is not widely understood to be a health risk.

China has failed to live up to its treaty obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This is an attempt to comply – the outcome remains to be seen.

Wales has banned smoking in the grounds of some of its hospitals. Actually it intends to outlaw smoking in the grounds of hospitals:
The ban at hospitals run by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is the first step in a move to outlaw smoking in all hospital grounds in the region.
This is a move that the Welsh section of BMA has wanted for many years. The rationale, according to Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, is that 'smoke was putting people's health at risk in the very place they visit to get better.'
"The BMA in Wales has campaigned for smoking to be banned on all hospital grounds. In fact, we called on the assembly government to change the law to ensure hospitals were included in the smoking ban legislation, which came into effect two years ago today,"
 he said, even going so far as to declare that:
"This wasn't done, and now, more than ever, it seems absurd to have smoking outlawed in places such as pubs and restaurants. But in hospital grounds, where people go to be cured of illnesses, it isn't."
Hospitals throughout the UK have been rebuilding smoking shelters after failing to realise their dream of smoke-free medical facilities. Apparently oblivious to this widespread failure, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board insists that a diplomatic approach is the answer: 
Dr Sharon Hopkins, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s director of public health, said: “We want to do this through cultural change, not through finger-wagging and fines."
Bringing outdoor smoking in hospital grounds within the scope of a public places smoking ban will not stop people wanting to light up. If it is enforced (what a waste of resources that would be!) it could deter people from turning up for treatment.

China and Wales will both discover that smoking bans leave you with as many problems as you started with and them some. Counting the cost of enforcement will be one of the first disadvantages.

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