As from 6am yesterday (Sunday) it is illegal to light up a cigarette in pubs and restaurants throughout Scotland, making it the first place in the UK towards the ultimate aim of banning smoking in all public places. Anyone breaking this law faces an on-the-spot fine of £50 ($86).

Many smokers and organisations representing the tobacco interests, and some landlords (owners of pubs and restaurants) have warned that these measures could bring about the closure of several establishments.

Over the last couple of decades Scotland has acquired the reputation of being the 'sick man of Europe'. This is due to an alleged lifestyle which includes a combination of poor diet, heavy drinking, physical inactivity and smoking.

Passive smoking has been estimated to cost the lives of about 1,000 people a year in Scotland. How real the harmful effects of passive smoking are is a controversial subject throughout the world.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, said Scotland must reduce the high number of deaths from heart disease, strokes and cancer. He said "I think we've got to be realistic about this. There are going to be people who will be inconvenienced by the ban. But I also believe Scotland is a law-abiding country. In the years ahead, people will look back on today as the day that Scotland took the largest single step to improve its health for generations. Scotland will be proud that it has gone smoke-free ahead of any other part of the UK."

Despite complaints from smokers, the ban has the support of 60% of the country's population, according to recent polls.

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