Poised to stub out bad habit

WITH speculation mounting over the exact date a smoking ban will be introduced to all public places in England, businesses in Suffolk are having to gear up for the change.

WITH speculation mounting over the exact date a smoking ban will be introduced to all public places in England, businesses in Suffolk are having to gear up for the change.

SARAH GILLETT found out what steps they are taking to ensure they are smoke-free by the summer.

LOVE it or hate it, a smoking ban in all public places looks set to be law by this time next year.

While precise details have yet to be released on the date the ban begins, speculation is mounting that it could be the start of June, meaning smokers have around six months to prepare.

One national newspaper has suggested the exact date could be June 4, but the government have denied this, claiming no specifics have been finalised as yet.

With the countdown well underway, businesses across Suffolk are busy making preparations to ensure the change is as smooth as possible for their staff.

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Among the first employers in the county to get tough on smoking were the health trusts.

Ipswich Hospital banned smoking on all of its premises in August 2005.

The outright ban means patients and staff can no longer smoke anywhere on the hospital grounds - meaning those who want to pop out for a quick cigarette must walk to the edges of the site before they can light up.

Jan Rowsell, hospital spokeswoman, said: “The vast majority of the 8,000 people who use the site every day have been wonderful at observing the smoke-free zone.

“There have been rare examples where people have decided they are not going to observe the policy but, on the whole, it's working very well.

“We understand that this was a huge change for a lot of people and have tried to be as supportive as we can.

“All staff have been offered the opportunity to attend stop-smoking courses free of charge.”

The Suffolk Primary Care Trust has also banned smoking on all of its sites, including the ground of St Clement's Hospital in Ipswich.

This ban came in to force in March this year, and caused controversy when it emerged that patients would be banned from smoking in their own homes if they were due to have a visit from a health worker.

At Suffolk County Council, one of Ipswich's biggest employers, there is no smoking within the Endeavour House HQ.

Anyone who wants to pop out for a cigarette is expected to use a shed close to the main staff entrance, but a spokesman for the council said this may be affected when the new legislation comes in to place.

Like many large employers, the council is also hoping to provide help for staff who want to give up by working with the Suffolk Stop Smoking Service to provide courses.

Graham Newman, councillor for adult and community services, said: “For a smoker, the best single thing you can do to prolong your life is to stop smoking.

“The council is working closely with the NHS to encourage people to give up. We are now discussing with the NHS Suffolk Stop Smoking Service coordinator on how we can best work with members of staff to support their efforts to stop smoking."

Nationally, the government is predicting that an estimated 60,000 people could give up as a result of the change in the law, and pubs and clubs will be among those hardest hit as they try to adapt to the new laws.

However, several in Ipswich have already taken steps to pre-empt the ban.

The Ship Launch, in Cliff Road, went smoke-free when new owners Jonny Aldis and Kris Austin took over in September.

Mr Aldis said: “We have to take this leap now because it is important for customers to get used to it before the legislation comes in next year.”

A temporary area for smoking has been set up but the men eventually plan to convert old stables in the pub's courtyard in to a smoking room.

Zing wine bar in Tacket Street was the first Ipswich bar to become smoke-free, while the recently re-opened Spread Eagle in Fore Street is also operating a smoking ban.

Once the ban is operational, anyone caught smoking in a pub, club, restaurant, office or factory could face a £50 fine, and the county's health staff are hoping this will be enough of an incentive to persuade hundreds more people to ditch the tobacco.

Hilary Andrews, coordinator of Suffolk Stop Smoking Services, said: “At the moment we have seen a bit of a lull in the numbers of people coming to us but we are expecting to see a rise nearer the time.

“Once a specific date has been set we are expecting to see a big increase in the numbers of people coming to us and we will be setting up extra services in order to accommodate that.”

It is thought that around 23 per cent of the adult population of the county are smokers but Mrs Andrews believes the ban will have a real impact on these figures.

She said: “I really believe it will make a huge difference. It will help people understand that smoking is dangerous because it will be harder for them to just light up.

“I think people get a bit oblivious to all the anti-smoking messages out there but if they find that they can't go out to a pub and smoke while they are having a drink with their friends then it will make it more likely that they will get to a point where they are thinking about giving up.”

As well as launching a range of drop-in sessions for smokers (see panel on this page) Suffolk Stop Smoking staff have also got together with other organisations like the Suffolk PCT, the healthy schools initiative and environmental health officers to produce a Smoke Free Suffolk CD-ROM which has been sent out to businesses throughout the county to offer them advice and support on moving towards the ban.

Mrs Andrews said: “We know this is going to be difficult for a lot of people but, at the end of the day, giving up smoking is the best way of improving your health and we want to give people as much support and as many opportunities for doing it as possible.”

Do you think the smoking ban will have a big impact? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.suffolkstopsmokingservice.co.uk

Did you know?

If you smoke 20 a day, quitting could be like a wage increase of over £2,000 a year.

The service is currently running two drop-in sessions in Ipswich and is hoping to add a third in the New Year.

On Saturday mornings swimmers can benefit from advice on how to stop smoking after their dip as an adviser is available at Crown Pools between 10am and 12pm.

On Thursdays an adviser will be available at Ipswich Town Hall between 12pm and 4pm.

Mrs Andrews said: “Both involve four or five one-to-one sessions with an adviser over consecutive weeks after a smoker begins their quit attempt, the first lasting about half-an-hour and the remainder 15-20 minutes.”

A third session is due to begin at the library in Northgate Street in January.

Anyone interested in attending the sessions should contact the service in advance.

If you would like to find out more about the support available for giving up smoking in Suffolk call the Suffolk Stop Smoking Service on freephone 0800 085 6037, email suffolk.stop.smoking@ipswichhospital.nhs.uk or text 01473 704314.

Eight hours after quitting smoking: Chances of having a heart attack begin to fall.

After one day: Carbon monoxide leaves the body.

Between two to 12 weeks after quitting: Walking and exercise gets easier.

Three to nine months after giving up: Lung efficiency increases by 5-10 per cent.

After one year: Quitting from 20 a day = almost £2,000 saved.

After five years: Risk of heart attack = half that of a smoker.

After ten years: What could you buy with £18,250?

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