MIDLAND Bluebird, one of Scotland's largest bus operators, is to introduce a ban on smoking next month.
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The company, which last year carried more than 20 million passengers, announced yesterday that the ban will be effective on all services from October 12, and will extend to its 700-strong workforce.
The decision to ban smoking on the 300-vehicle fleet was taken following a highly successful public voteline organised by the company and the local independent radio station, Central FM.
Outlining the results, Mr Colin Smith, managing director of the firm, said he was astounded when 91% of callers wanted a ban on smoking.
It would have been ''foolish to ignore the views of the public. We have been given a mandate to enforce a ban.''
The company would have been ''two-faced'' if it had not extended the no-smoking ban to include the workforce.
Discussions are taking place with staff representatives and trade union officials to determine how it will operate.
Passengers who ignored the ban could be fined up to #400. ''We are taking advice from Central Scotland Police and from the procurator-fiscal's office in Falkirk regarding enforcement of the regulation,'' Mr Smith added.
Smoking would also be banned on coach tours organised by Midland.
Mr Smith said: ''It is a commercial risk, but one we are prepared to take.''.
The ban was welcomed by Forth Valley Health Board's health promotion officer, Miss Dawn Stafford. She said: ''There has been a lot of publicity surrounding this survey and the smokers were given every opportunity to retain the right to smoke on buses. However, the response from them was only 9%.