Scotland stalls in bid to cut smoking
SCOTLAND has lost its place as a world leader in tackling smoking rates and now lags behind almost all other developed countries, a leading anti-tobacco activist has claimed.
Anne Jones, chief executive of ASH Australia and a key figure in the anti-smoking movement, will use a speech in Scotland this week to call on the Scottish Government to do more to put tobacco control at the top of its agenda.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday ahead of her visit, Jones accused the Scottish Government of “running scared” of international tobacco firms and urged the country’s politicians to stop “dragging their heels”.
In her speech at Edinburgh University, to mark World No Tobacco Day on Thursday, Jones will demand ministers take urgent action to ban tobacco vending machines, introduce the plain packaging of cigarettes and increase the cost of tobacco even further in order to save the nation’s health and curb spiralling NHS costs.
Jones, who is also a technical adviser to the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said that “running scared” from international tobacco firms, which continue to mount legal challenges against anti-tobacco legislation in countries including Scotland, was jeopardising the country’s health.
“Almost one in four people in Scotland smoke. The cost to Scotland in terms of lives lost, NHS bills, healthcare and other related costs is staggering,” she said.
“Scotland was rightly proud to be one of the first countries to ban smoking in enclosed places – but just a few years on it is now lagging behind most developed countries by not continuing to take bold and brave steps to make tobacco less attractive, less available and less affordable.”
Earlier this year, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging on all tobacco products. For some time smokers in Australia have been able to access hugely subsidised nicotine replacement therapy and almost all tobacco advertising has been banned. Vending machines have been banned in some jurisdictions and in others smokers are forced to buy tokens from licensed vendors in a bid to curb underage smoking.
Jones says the measures have led to a reduction in Australian smokers in the past 15 years – down from 25 per cent to 15 per cent.
Figures show the number of 15-year-olds who smoke in Australia is 9 per cent, compared with 12 per cent in the UK. Jones said worldwide studies highlight that people who start smoking by the age of 15 are the most likely to continue smoking – and smoke the most – in later life.
She believes tobacco companies use “colourful and enticing” packaging to encourage more youngsters to get hooked and says banning branding is a must for any country which is serious about tackling smoking.
Tobacco firms have already challenged the plain packaging law in Australia and say they will challenge any country which follows suit.
Earlier this month, Sinclair Collins challenged Scotland’s proposed cigarette vending machine ban in the Scottish courts.
Imperial Tobacco recently put in an 11th-hour appeal against plans to ban tobacco displays in shops and a few weeks ago a joint UK and Scottish Government consultation on requiring tobacco to be sold in plain packs was met by tobacco-industry funded opposition.
“The bottom line is Scotland has to stand up to tobacco industry interference and not be bullied into submission,” Jones said.
The Public Health Minister Michael Matheson refuted the claims, and said: “These comments are completely wrong and ill-informed – we cannot prevent the current legal challenges. Scotland has led the way on banning smoking in public places, legislation on outlawing vending machines and banning cigarette displays – described by ASH Scotland as ‘world leading health policies.’ ”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 6 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west