Scotland's smoking ban came into force at midnight on 26 March 2006, and to the surprise of some, has resulted in little in the way of upheaval. No arrests have been made and the vast majority of the public have abided peaceably by the new law. Fears of a drop in profits for pub and bar-owners have also proved unfounded so far, with a slight increase in takings being recorded. Whether this increase is despite or because of the ban, and whether it will continue, is not yet clear. Experts warn that it will require three months of the ban for a full picture of its economic impact to be revealed.
Despite the overall success of the ban's implementation, there are certain issues that have arisen. A flurry of applications for planning permission to erect "smokers' shelters" or awnings has led to a huge backlog, and in the interim certain proprietors have put up shelters without permission. Heritage groups have warned that such awnings could ruin the aesthetic appearance of historic areas like Edinburgh's Grassmarket. Local inhabitants are also concerned that groups of smokers gathered outside pubs and clubs will cause obstruction and disturbance.
Legal challenges to the ban have also been mounted, in the form of petitions for judicial review of the Scottish Ministers' decision, by the Swallow Hotels group, which runs 61 hotels throughout the country, London and Edinburgh Inns, which owns 50 public houses, Edinburgh City Football Club and an individual named Don Lawson, owner of a pub in Dingwall and one in Inverness, and a smoker himself. The petitioners are seeking to challenge the ban on the grounds that there was inadequate consultation on the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill prior to its entry into force, and that a total ban on smoking amounts to a breach of human rights. The "blanket ban", it is alleged, amounts to a disproportionate interference with individuals' right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The hearing has been delayed since it first came before a judge in early March, and is now due to be heard on 20 June 2006.
Those South of the border will watch with interest as the judicial review proceedings unfold, and indeed as Scotland adapts to its new, smoke-free environment. England and Wales are now poised to follow the Scottish example, with the Health Bill currently under scrutiny at Westminster. The bill will introduce a ban on smoking in the vast majority of public places and workplaces in England, with exceptions for private homes, residential care homes, prisons and hospitals. The proposals for a partial ban, to cover only premises serving food, which were originally favoured by the Government, were abandoned in the face of strong pressure from MPs. The bill, which is expected to come into force in Summer 2007, will also grant Wales powers to implement its own ban, which has been approved in principle by the Welsh Assembly twice already. It is likely that the Welsh ban will also affect all enclosed public places, bringing the whole of the UK into line.