New restrictions set to begin this summer will deny smokers surgery in order to slash healthcare costs, reports the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) association.
Leicester City Primary Care Trust will be the first to test out the restrictions, but they are expected to spread quickly throughout the UK.
Smokers will be denied operations unless they give up cigarettes for at least four weeks beforehand. Doctors will test patients' honesty by taking a blood test for nicotine residues.
Research shows that smokers take far longer, on average, to recover from operations and are far more likely to experience serious complications.
This not only increases surgery costs but also ties up hospital beds and facilities urgently needed to treat other patients.
John Banzhaf, executive director of ASH, says: "Smoking not only causes many very serious and very expensive diseases, but also exacerbates many existing medical problems and complicates recovery from virtually all operations."
He adds that it is unfair that the added costs and delays in providing services to smokers are felt by the majority of patients who have never smoked.
"This is manifestly unfair," he says. "One remedy is to charge smokers more for their health insurance … another is to deny smokers certain services, especially if their smoking is likely to impair their outcome."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply) "Very obese people who develop diabetes are not denied care. Whilst smokers should be encouraged to quit they should not be penalised in this way" - Name and address witheld