A grandmother who smoked up to 70 cigarettes a day for 58 years has praised a voluntary smoking ban in two outdoor city squares.

Kathleen Butt, 69, a retired laundrette worker from Bristol, first lit up at the age of 11 but managed to kick her weekly habit of three tobacco pouches last year.

She visited Millennium and Anchor squares in Bristol, which today became Britain's first major outdoor public spaces to go smokefree.

The initiative follows a major report last year by former health minister Lord Darzi which suggested UK cities should ban smoking in public spaces and parks.

Cities including New York, Toronto and Hong Kong have already banned smoking in key outdoor locations but Bristol is the UK's first to pilot smokefree zones.

Surveys suggest that more than half of local people are in favour of the ban, which pro-smoking campaigners have criticised as "creeping prohibition".

"If only people realise you're here to help them, not trying to stop their lifestyle," Ms Butt said. "Help is out there and people can become nicotine free, like me.

"It is an addiction, I know that now. I was addicted for 58 years, my life revolved around smoking. I even chose my job so I could pop out for regular cigarette breaks.

"It's a hard one because this is a large open space. People will find a little space to smoke but that is not going to be the answer, it has to come within yourself."

Ms Butt was spurred to quit smoking after customs seized her purchase of 100 pouches of tobacco following her second trip to stock up Belgium in five months.

"I went to Belgium to buy tobacco as it was much cheaper," Ms Butt, whose grandchildren are in their twenties, said. "I first went in January 2013 and I bought 100 pouches for £350.

"I thought it would last me but I went upstairs in May and it had all gone. I was so ashamed, I couldn't tell anyone. I'd smoked three to four pouches a week.

"I booked my next trip and bought 100 pouches again but when I came through customs they stopped me and confiscated it, they couldn't believe it was all for me.

"I was crying and begging them to let me have it became I needed it. I used to have to make 10 roll ups before I could get in the car, I chain-smoked all day."

Ms Butt was prescribed patches in January last year and managed to completely kick her habit by May through Smokefree Bristol.

Millennium and Anchor squares are home to the At-Bristol science museum, shops and restaurants and are well-used play spaces for children.

The pilot builds on the smokefree parks project, which reduced smoking near playgrounds in the South West by 34% through signs asking people not to light up.

Kirsty Vass, 33, inspired the voluntary ban in Bristol after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a year ago when one of her lungs collapsed.

Ms Vass, of Torbay, Devon, who smoked 20 cigarettes a year for more than 15 years, is now constantly short of breath, unable to travel and has to be supported by daughter Lucy, 15.

"If young people see you smoking then they think its all right but they don't understand what it can do to you, so making smoking less visible in public places can only be a good thing," she said.

Research showed 53% of people thought the voluntary ban was a "good or very good idea", with 61% agreeing the area would be a better place for most if it were smokefree.

Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said the voluntary pilot would police itself.

"This is an exciting initiative that we hope will have a lasting impact not only on Millennium Square and Anchor Square, but on the wider region," she said.

Signs erected on lampposts in the squares read: "Thank you for keeping Bristol smokefree, healthy & clean".

Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, criticised the ban as "creeping prohibition" and said it would pave the way for prosecutions.

"I'm sure that in future if smokers disregard this so-called voluntary ban they will ask the local council to introduce a by-law so they can prosecute smokers," Mr Clark said.

"They will fine smokers for lighting up in the open air. It really is just going way too far. The authorities don't have a right to coerce and bully people into quitting smoking."

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