A DOCTOR'S letter written more than 400 years ago has revealed the medical profession were even then concerned about the risks of smoking to young people. The letter, by Dr Eleazar Duncon, was unearthed by librarians at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) as they prepared for an exhibition.
Professor Sir Neil Douglas, the president of the RCPE, said it gave a "fascinating insight into historical concerns" about smoking and young people. Its existence emerged just days before MSPs at Holyrood consider the principles behind a Scottish Government plan to curb the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to youngsters. The matter is due for discussion on Thursday.
Dr Duncon penned his letter way back in 1606 and concluded
that tobacco "is so hurtful and dangerous to youth that it might have the pernicious nation expressed in the name, and that it were as well known by the name of Youths-bane as by the name of tobacco".
The RCPE president said: "This letter shows that the issue of the addictive nature of smoking and young people has been of concern for over four centuries.
"It would be easy for politicians to think that the problems associated with tobacco have been dealt with and to lose sight of the fact that the proposed Bill includes critically important measures aimed at reducing smoking in young people.
"These measures principally involve ending point of sale advertising and banning vending machines, both of which encourage and influence young people to smoke. We therefore urge MSPs from all parties to support this important Bill and to take this historic opportunity to reduce the harm caused by smoking in the young."
If it is passed the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill would ban shops from displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products, outlaw cigarette vending machines and introduce a registration system for tobacco retailers.
The Health and Sport Committee wants make it a criminal act for adults to buy tobacco on behalf of the underaged.