Only long-stay patients will be able to buy tobacco under the new ruling announced yesterday by Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health.
The move, which also includes a series of measures to help people give up, is part of a Government attempt to create a virtually smoke-free NHS.
Dr Mawhinney said that from May next year all hospitals and trusts will be required to ensure staff are covered by a no-smoking policy, provide support to staff who smoke and want to give up and to set up smoking rooms for those unable to kick the habit.
The guidance has been drawn up as part of the Government's commitment to stop smoking in the NHS - except in limited areas. Patients unable to stop smoking will continue to be given separate smoking rooms.
Dr Mawhinney said: 'If the NHS is to be seen to be tackling ill-health effectively, then it must ensure that patients, visitors and staff are not exposed to passive smoking and the health risk it entails on NHS premises.'
Selling tobacco in NHS hospitals only sent out 'contradictory messages' about the harm caused by smoking.
Health authorities had made some progress in controlling smoking, but 'more rapid and effective action' was required, he said.
The anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health welcomed the ban 'unreservedly'. A spokesman said: 'There is now no excuse for other employers large or small not to introduce a smoking policy.'
The health union Cohse said the move would 'save lives and create a greatly improved environment for NHS staff'.
Its health and safety officer, Sarah Copsey, stressed the importance of consultation with all staff on drawing up the anti-smoking policies.
Increased pressure could contribute to people taking up the habit, she said. 'We therefore particularly want to see support for staff who are trying to give up and smoking rooms for those who cannot.'Reuse content