The sight of smokers puffing a cigarette at the entrances to hospitals and other health facilities will be a thing of the past from next year.
In fact, from March 2016, smoking will not be permitted even in the grounds of any HSC Trust facility.
Health Minister, Jim Wells, said: “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year.
He noted: “Under smoke-free legislation, which was introduced in 2007, smoking is not permitted in any enclosed or substantially enclosed public or work place. While the legislation has been very successful in terms of compliance, there have been some issues raised around people smoking at the entrances to buildings, particularly hospitals.
“Approximately one third of cancer deaths could be avoided if people didn’t smoke. It is also a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, strokes and other diseases of the circulatory system and to treat smoking related illnesses in NI is costing in the region of £164million each year.
“Health Trusts need to demonstrate leadership when it comes to important issues of public health, such as smoking prevalence. The Western Trust led the way when it introduced a complete ban on smoking anywhere on its grounds or premises from No Smoking Day 2014.
“I am pleased, one year later, that the same measures will apply across all HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland by March 2016.”