SMOKERS will be banned from lighting up in their own vehicles in hospital 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.
NHS Lothian and NHS Highland have confirmed that the total ban will extend to private vehicles in hospital car parks.
Scottish Tories and pro-smoking campaigners have criticised the move, saying the NHS should concentrate on getting the basics right.
It has also emerged that the government is not providing any extra resources to enforce the ban, raising questions about whether it will have any effect.
The first official steps to ban smoking in hospital grounds were taken in 2008 but have been widely ignored.
But one health official warned that under the crackdown, the ban will be total, adding: “Our policy is that even if you are on a space hopper, you cannot smoke.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland yesterday confirmed: “It does extend to smoking inside people’s cars.
“It’s not just us, it’s every health board in Scotland.
“We’re not going to have specific enforcers going around, we have asked people and we hope they will adhere to the policy.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian said: “I can tell you our grounds are to be smoke-free by 2015.
“I suppose that if you are in a car on the grounds then you are not allowed to smoke at all.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “If only NHS boards were as concerned about hospital food as they were the public’s smoking habits.
“Patients will not want to see resources diverted away from the frontline to target people smoking in their own private space.
“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 smoker’s group Forest, said: “It’s unbelievable that they would try to enforce a ban in private vehicles.
“It’s not harming anyone else at all. Hospitals can be very stressful places, not just for staff but for visitors.
“Some hospitals have huge grounds. Someone might be in hospital for weeks on end and it’s not just wrong, it’s cruel to tell them they can’t smoke if they are a heavy smoker.
“The NHS is supposed to be a caring organisation.”