Campaign group slams smoking ban at council headquarters
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Campaigners have slammed a council's decision to prohibit smoking at its headquarters - while also considering a ban on vaping.
Smokers' lobby group Forest said the move by Breckland Council was "based on a fallacy" and was not supported by "a shred of evidence".
The local authority's proposal - unanimously approved at a cabinet meeting on Monday - will see smoking banned at the Elizabeth House office in Dereham.
That includes in the car park and outdoor areas, and applies to all employees, elected members, visitors and contractors while they are on site.
Breckland had said it wanted to cement its position as “trailblazers” with the new smoke-free policy.
But Simon Clark, director of Forest, argued that workers should have freedom to choose what they do during their breaks.
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"The council's policy is based on the fallacy that smoking outside poses a health risk to non-smokers," he said.
"There is not a shred of evidence that smoking in the open air is harmful to by-standers.
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"Everyone is entitled to a work break and, if staff choose to use that time to light up or vape outside that's a matter for them not their employer.”
While the cabinet has also provisionally approved a ban on vaping, further guidance is being sought from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) before it is confirmed.
But those in opposition, such as Forest, say e-cigarettes are a useful tool for quitting.
"Banning vaping as well makes no sense and shows this is not about health, but about controlling people's behaviour,” added Mr Clark.
Breckland has stood by its decision, adding that the health and wellbeing of employees and residents is taken "very seriously".
A survey carried out by the council in recent months found 90pc of staff were in favour of the premises going smoke-free.
Ian Sherwood, cabinet member for people, said: "While we fully recognise that people have a right to choose to smoke, as a local authority we have an important role in promoting positive physical health.
"Equally, we are proud to be responding to the overwhelming majority of our staff who support this move."