SMOKERS will be banned from lighting up in their own vehicles within NHS Lothian car parks from next month.
As part of a renewed crackdown on smoking in hospital grounds, visitors in their own cars – even with the windows closed – will be asked to stub it out.
All health boards in Scotland have been asked by the Scottish Government to make hospitals and their grounds completely smoke-free by the end of March.
But NHS Lothian is among the first to confirm that a total ban will extend to private vehicles in hospital car parks.
The move has been hailed by health chiefs but criticised by Tory politicians who fear resources will be taken away from frontline services to enforce it.
NHS Lothian has faced a huge battle with smoking on its grounds in recent years, spending £600,000 cleaning up discarded butts at the ERI since the introduction of the smoking ban.
There have also been complaints about smoke wafting into wards as staff and visitors stand outside the entrance to light-up.
A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian confirmed today that the complete ban would extend to private cars on hospital property.
And one health official warned: “Our policy is that even if you are on a space hopper, you cannot smoke.”
The Tories have questioned whether the ban will have any effect as the government is not providing any extra resources for enforcement. The first official steps to ban smoking in hospital grounds were taken in 2008 but they have been widely ignored.
The party’s Scottish health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said patients would resent seeing resources diverted away from frontline services in order to “target people smoking in their own private space”.
He said: “If only NHS boards were as concerned about hospital food as they were the public’s smoking habits. Many doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers continue to smoke – perhaps the NHS should focus on addressing their habits before worrying about the wider public.”
Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking group Forest, added: “It’s unbelievable that they would try to enforce a ban in private vehicles. It’s not harming anyone else. Hospitals can be very stressful places, not just for staff but for visitors.”
The Scottish Government was approached for comment but failed to respond.