I’M not sure how many of us look back fondly to the time where you couldn’t go into a pub without your lungs filling with someone else’s smoke, but ten years ago, that was the case.

But now - the number of smokers across the South West is at a record low.

And to the rest of you that just can’t shake those nicotine cravings, why not use this anniversary as an excuse to kick the habit?

This month marks ten years since England decided to put a ban on smoking in public places.

That means that going for a meal, to work, or a train, got a little bit fresher - without the risk of second-hand smoke.

The legislation came into force on July 1 2007 and saw the ban of smoking in public places. This included vehicles that serve the public.

Not adhering to the then-new law sees a hefty fine for owners and managers of public places, as the onus falls on them to ensure that all staff and visitors are aware of the ban and uphold it.

No smoking signs became a more regular sight, as appropriate signage was also required.

According to Public Health England, the number of smokers across the South West is currently at a record-low. Figures suggest that there are around 230,000 fewer smokers in the region since the ban came into place.

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Councillor Christine Lawrence, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, Somerset County Council said: “It’s hard to believe that Saturday July 1marked the tenth anniversary of pubs, clubs and workplaces becoming smokefree by law.

“The children of today have no recollection of smoke-filled cafés, and find it hard to believe that people were once allowed to smoke in offices and taxis. We have all become used to being able to go for a night out and not come home smelling of smoke.

“Even so there are still thousands of smokers in Somerset. So, if you are still a smoker you can mark the 10th anniversary in your own special way and take the opportunity to stop now.

“If you are not ready to ditch the habit completely, think about switching to vaping instead, as the evidence so far is it is around 95 per cent safer than smoking.”

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that although smoking rates in the South West are at a record-low, there’s still more than can be done to tackle the harm caused by tobacco.

ASH director of policy ,Hazel Cheeseman, said: “Smoking prevalence is at an all-time low in the South West at 13.9 per cent but smoking remains the leading cause of preventable premature death, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.

“Much more needs to be done to reduce health inequalities so that no-one is left behind.

“The Smokefree England survey shows there is strong support for more action to tackle the harm caused by tobacco.”

Russ Moody, tobacco control lead for Public Health England South West said: “The indoor smoking ban in public places was one of the greatest reforms to public health in this country. The move, coupled with quit smoking initiatives such as Stoptober and the work of local authority public health teams, has helped to drastically cut the number of smokers by facilitating quit attempts and smokefree lifestyles. And not only has the health of smokers benefitted but so too has the health of non-smokers who no longer have to breathe second-hand smoke in pubs, restaurants and bars.

“In the South West smoking rates continue to fall across the region and are now the lowest on record at less than 15 per cent. Tobacco sales are also in decline as record numbers of people quit smoking. This is good news but there is more work needed to encourage more smokers to kick the habit and give themselves a better chance of staying healthy and avoiding conditions such as lung and oral cancers, coronary heart disease (CHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and strokes.

“Recent figures on smoking rates revealed more good news with a steep decline in smoking among younger adults with smoking at an all-time low in those aged 18-24 years – this is a huge step toward establishing the first tobacco-free generation.

“I would urge any smoker who is thinking of quitting to make this 10th anniversary the month they plan to quit smoking too. Put simply, quitting really is the best thing any smoker can do for their health.”

Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton has also made changes since the ban came into place.

A PA-voice system of a child’s voice was installed outside of the hospital’s buildings that can be triggered by staff members or members of the public when they see someone in the area.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Hayley Peters, director of patient care at Musgrove Park Hospital, said: “We are proud of the work we have done at Musgrove to create a no smoking environment.

“From time to time we do see members of the public smoking on our hospital site, but many of our staff feel empowered to challenge them.

“Also, a couple of years ago we introduced a smoke free PA system outside each of our main entrances that features a pre-recorded message of a child’s voice that can be triggered when a member of staff or the public spots someone smoking. This has had a really positive effect and we have noticed fewer people lighting up around the hospital site since they were put in place.

The maternity team have also been recognised for their work with smoking in pregnancy.

According to figures from 2016, the NHS Mums2Be smokefree service is leading the way in getting pregnant women to quit smoking, with more expecting mums kicking the habit in Somerset than anywhere else in the South West.

The figures from the department of public health revealed at 54 per cent of pregnant women who set a quitting date were successful.

Mrs Peters added: “In our maternity unit we give carbon monoxide tests to all pregnant women, with all smokers referred to the NHS Mums2Be smokefree service.

“Identifying pregnant women who smoke is really important because we know that smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of harm to the unborn, including the risk of having a small baby, and small babies are more likely to be stillborn.”

Other measures have come into place since the ban in 2007, including the increase of the age of sale from 16 to 18-years-old in October 2007, prohibiting the sale of tobacco from vending machines in October 2011, prohibiting the display of tobacco products in shops from April 2012 and 2015, and standardised packaging of tobacco from May 2016.