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GP public health experts are warning that banning smoking in public places will stretch smoking cessation services to breaking point without significant extra resources.

The Government this week released a consultation document on its plans for a ban in England and Wales, confirming it will exempt some pubs and clubs.

GPs have attacked the proposals as 'illogical and iniquitous' and demanded ministers go further. But they said even a partial ban would lead to a surge in those coming forward for anti-smoking advice.

Dr Alex Bobak, a smoking cessation adviser and a GP in Wandsworth, south London, said: 'Having a complete ban has been shown to be the biggest single factor to help people stop smoking, not just in terms of passive smoking but in encouraging people to quit.'

But Dr Bobak said smoking cessation services in England and Wales would need to receive extra funding and GPs improved education. 'It will generate a lot more demand and at the moment services just could not cope,' he said.

New figures reveal last year's announcement of a total ban in Scotland has had a dramatic effect on the numbers planning to quit.

Calls to Scotland's national smoking hotline have leapt 50 per cent and GPs are reporting rising numbers of patients seeking smoking advice.

Dr Dean Marshall, deputy chair of the Scottish GPC committee, said: 'More and more people have been raising the issue of stopping smoking. It's unfortunate in England the proposals do not go as far. For once Scotland is leading the way on health policy.'

The Department of Health consultation document admitted a total ban would save the NHS more than £2 billion a year and prevent twice as many deaths from passive smoking as a partial ban. But it said a total ban would be difficult to enforce, politically unacceptable and damaging to the hospitality industry.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC representative on the BMA public health committee, said: 'The current partial ban is a fudge that defies logic. The Government has repeatedly espoused the importance of improving public health and this is the greatest single intervention it could make.'

By Joanna Clarke-jones

Proposals that stop short of total ban

·All enclosed public places and workplaces in England and Wales will be smoke free by 2007

·All restaurants and pubs and bars serving food will be smoke free by 2008; other pubs, bars and private members' clubs can choose whether to allow smoking

·Legislation may apply in places such as bus shelters, sports stadiums or other areas not totally enclosed

·Fines of £50 for individuals or £200 for licensed premises for breaches of ban

·The consultation period ends on September 5, 2005

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