THE Scottish Government will not be deterred by lobbying from tobacco firms as it aims to further reduce smoking rates, the public health minister has said.
Michael Matheson made the comments on No Smoking Day as he reaffirmed a pledge to create a “tobacco-free generation”, with smoking rates under 5%, in the next 20 years.
Legislation banning the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products in larger retailers came into force last year and will be rolled out to smaller retailers in April 2015.
It follows the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, such as pubs, restaurants and almost all workplaces since 2006, and the Government also plans to introduce plain packaging for all cigarettes.
Mr Matheson said: “We will not be cowed by the tobacco giants who are desperate to stop us introducing plain packaging.
“The tobacco industry has a long and failed history of challenging governments who take action to protect public health from the harms of the product they sell.
“Only this week we saw more spurious claims about the supposed impact of the policy in a study funded by the tobacco industry.
“But the fact remains there is strong evidence that plain packaging reduces the appeal of smoking to young people.”
The Scottish Government is to launch a campaign later this month on the dangers of second-hand smoke in homes and cars.
Mr Matheson said: “Recent statistics have shown us that fewer people are smoking and fewer are being admitted to hospital with smoke-related illnesses.
“While it’s encouraging that we’re moving in the right direction, we must keep these gains in context.
“The fact remains that 56,000 people are admitted to Scottish hospitals every year as a result of tobacco use - more people than you can fit in Hampden Park - and smoking contributes to a shocking 13,000 deaths a year.
“Smoking is one of the biggest contributors to the terrible health inequalities which affect Scottish society.
“Average smoking rates for the whole of Scotland are around 23%, but in the most deprived communities that rate is 36%.
“I’m looking forward to launching our second-hand smoke campaign which will spell out clearly the serious health harm which children are exposed to through breathing in other people’s smoke in homes and cars.
“On National No Smoking Day, that is something we all should reflect on.”