Deputy health minister Tom McCabe said that it marked a unique opportunity for Scottish people to voice their opinions on what should be done about smoking in public places.
'As the single biggest cause of preventable premature death and ill-health in Scotland, smoking is an issue that affects us all. It is now estimated that 19,000 Scots die every year from smoking-related illnesses.
'While less than a third of Scottish people actually smoke, passive smoking, or second-hand smoke, has been linked with a range of potentially lethal respiratory conditions, including lung cancer.
'Many Scots wish to breathe smoke-free air. While we do not wish to curb smokers' personal choice to smoke, the health impacts of a smoky atmosphere must be taken into account. That is why we committed to introducing more smoke free places in the Partnership Agreement, what remains to be decided is how this is done.
'Legislation is obviously an option, but all options will be considered. We are seeking to promote good citizenship and ensure smokers are aware of how their second-hand smoke affects others. A voluntary charter being operated by the licensed trade has yielded some results, but seven out of 10 pubs still allow smoking throughout their premises and smoke-free pubs and restaurants are still few and far between.
'We want to hear all shades of opinion. Organisations with an interest will get a chance to voice their views and concerns. Whatever we decide to do, we want to have the backing of the Scottish people which is why we are launching today's public consultation.
'The consultation paper contains a range of questions to gauge public opinion on the issue. I want everyone in Scotland to be able to have their say. I'll be going along to a number of seminars over the summer where I can listen to views and discuss the issue directly with the Scottish pe ople.
'People will be able to pick up copies of the consultation, which will only take a few minutes to complete, from doctors' surgeries, libraries and other public outlets. Similarly, they can log on and make their opinion known via the internet.
'In addition to the public consultation, we are also undertaking a number of pieces of research to help us reach the right decisions. This includes looking at international experience and evidence about the health and economic impact of action to reduce exposure to second hand smoke.
'As part of this, we will be looking at the likes of New York and the Republic of Ireland, both of whom have recently introduced restrictions on smoking. Their experiences will feature at a national conference in Edinburgh in September, where we will hear from a broad range of expertise from across the world.
'Taking the time to review and consider all the evidence and the strength of public opinion will provide us with the strongest possible case for future action.'
View www.smokingconsultation.com to see the consultation materials and response form. Members of the public can also obtain a consultation information pack and response form by calling 0800 027 7127.
The pledge to consult the public on smoking in public places was first made in the Tobacco Control Action Plan, which was launched in January 2004. The plan can be found here.
In 2002, it was thought that around 1.15 million people (aged 16 and over) smoked - just over 28 per cent of the population. It is estimated that at least 20-25% of all deaths in Scotland result from smoking. Scotland has the highest rates of lung cancer in Europe for both men and women, with most cases caused by smoking.
Research has shown that designated non-smoking areas and ventilation systems have only a limited effect in keeping the air free from the chemicals contained in tobacco smoke.
The public forums which Mr McCabe w ill attend are as follows:
29/06/04 Dundee - Discovery Point (10.30 - 12.30)
20/07/04 Glasgow - The Royal Concert Hall (11.00 - 13.00)
10/08/04 Inverness - Ramada Jarvis Hotel (19.00 - 21.00)
26/08/04 Aberdeen - Ramada Jarvis Hotel (19.00 - 21.00)
The Scottish Civic Forum will also be holding a series of public forums for local people to have their say on the issue. They will be held at:
Mid Scotland and Fife
29/07/04 Memorial Hall, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire (18.00 - 20.00)
03/08/04 Lomond Centre, Glenrothes, Fife (18.00 - 20.00)
Edinburgh and Lothians
05/08/04 Prentice Centre, Granton, Edinburgh (15.00 - 17.00)
31/08/04 Community Centre, Dalkeith (18.00 - 20.00)
07/09/04 The Lounge, Civic Centre, Ardrossan (19.00 - 21.00)
15/09/04 Second Chance Learning Centre, Blairmore Rd, Greenock (13.00 - 15.00)
25/08/04 Inveralmond Community High School, Livingston (18.60 - 20.30)
24/08/04 Dawson Centre, Bainston, Falkirk (18/30 - 20.30)
12/08/04 Gateway Centre, Kilmarnock from (18.00 - 21.00)
19/08/04 St. Andrew's Workers Club, St. John Street, Stranraer (18.00 - 21.00)