The smoking ban introduced across the UK has had a big impact on teenagers by cutting their uptake by around a fifth, according to research by the University of Glasgow.
Teenage girls in particular were influenced by the new attitudes which led to smokers having to stand outside public places such as restaurants and cafes if in need of a cigarette.
The study, published today in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, found that there was an overall drop of 4.3 per cent in girls starting the habit, while for boys the reduction was 3.5 per cent UK-wide.
Dr Vittal Katikireddi, lead author of the report, said Scotland had led the way in a major drive to improve public health.
The team from the university’s MRC/CSO social and public health sciences unit along with colleagues the Welsh government and the University of Stirling found trends in smoking uptake amongst teenagers aged 13 and 15 differed substantially before and after the legislation was introduced.
Scotland was the first country in the UK to implement a comprehensive smoke-free ban (a stringent ban in public places, unlike partial bans introduced by a number of other nations) on smoking in public places in 2006, followed by Wales and Northern Ireland in April 2007 and England three months later.
Smoking kills around 13,500 Scots each year (around one in five) and is responsible for around 33,500 hospital admissions. The Scottish Government aims to make Scotland smoke-free by 2034.
Previous research established comprehensive smoke-free legislation led to many improvements in population health – including reductions in heart attack, stroke and asthma – but this new research demonstrates that comprehensive smoke-free legislation could help prevent future generations from taking up smoking.
Dr Katikireddi said: “The results demonstrate a fairly big change in the number of young people starting smoking – particularly in girls.
“This shows other countries have a real opportunity to learn from Scotland’s early lead. It also tells us how public health policy has a real impact, not just on adults, but on children too, by bringing about a culture leading to a healthier life.”
The study was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and Medical Research Council.