Campaign to stub out smoking in Scotland

IT REMAINS the largest cause of preventable ill health and death in Scotland.
20 per cent of adults Scots smoke - a figure the Scottish Government aims to reduce to five per cent or less by 2034. Picture: John Devlin20 per cent of adults Scots smoke - a figure the Scottish Government aims to reduce to five per cent or less by 2034. Picture: John Devlin
20 per cent of adults Scots smoke - a figure the Scottish Government aims to reduce to five per cent or less by 2034. Picture: John Devlin

But 20 per cent of adults north of the border are still choosing to light up and carry on smoking, despite decades of public information campaigns and clamp-downs on tobacco advertising.

Reducing that figure to five per cent or less by 2034 is a key target for the Scottish Government.

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A new tobacco control strategy was unveiled in 2013 and included robust restrictions on how cigarettes are displayed in shops and a ban on smoking in hospital grounds.

The Scottish Parliament is now considering a new Health Bill which includes further measures on sales and introducing regulations on e-cigarettes for the first time.

Smoking kills 13,000 Scots each year and NHS Scotland spends £271 million treating people with smoking-related conditions annually.

“Our main challenge is to address the link between smoking and inequalities, including addressing the circumstances that can make it difficult for some people to stop smoking,” said an NHS Health Scotland spokeswoman.

“People from lower income groups who smoke are more likely to smoke more heavily and have stronger nicotine dependence. Together with their social circumstances, this can make it harder for them to stop smoking.

“Children who are born into more socially deprived communities are more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke. Children who live with smokers are also twice as likely to become smokers themselves, so prevention work with young people is important.”

The spokeswoman added that NHS Scotland was committed to working with the Scottish Government to achieve its 2034 goal.

“We have led a review of local stop-smoking services and made recommendations for NHS Boards to improve them, including designing services flexibly and maintaining engagement with service users once recruited to prevent drop-out,” they said.

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“Pregnant women are a key group to reach, and we are currently updating our stop-smoking booklet for pregnant women which supports midwives to discuss stopping smoking at antenatal appointments. Linked to this is the promotion of services that can help address the social circumstances that may be making it hard for pregnant women to give up smoking.”

Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Smoking in Scotland continues to fall. The recently published Scottish Household Survey 2014 shows that 20 per cent of adults now smoke – a drop of three percentage points on the previous three years. This is the sharpest year-to-year decline in smoking rates since 1999, and shows good progress towards meeting the Scottish Government’s target of cutting the figure to five per cent or less by 2034.

“Our Health Bill – which includes further measures on tobacco and e-cigarettes – is currently being considered by Parliament. This year saw the final instalment of Scotland’s tobacco display regulations, which are amongst the most robust in the world. In 2013, this Government was pleased to be the first in the UK to announce its support for plain packaging - and to play its part in securing legislation which is due to come into force across the UK next year.”

Pro-smoking group Forest earlier this year called on the Scottish Government to reject proposals to ban the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places and prohibit advertisements for what it described as “the fastest growing supermarket product of 2014”.

Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on its latest health bill, it said: “There is no evidence e-cigarettes are harmful. There is also very little evidence that non-smokers, including children, are using e-cigarettes as a gateway to tobacco.

“Overwhelmingly the vast majority of vapers are existing or ex-smokers, many of whom are using the products as a means to quitting smoking. If the Scottish Government is genuinely interested in harm reduction it would encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.”