The smoking rate among 16 to 24-year-olds dropped from 26.5 per cent in 1999 to 22 per cent in 2012, ahead of a target set six years ago to reduce the rate to around 23 per cent for this year. Exposure to second-hand smoke has also fallen, and the number of 13 and 15-year-olds smoking is at its lowest level since records began, according to a report from Ash Scotland.
There are just over one million adult smokers in Scotland and the work of the NHS and other stop-smoking services has been praised for “exceeded performance targets”, but more work needs to be done to reduce rates in deprived areas which remain above the national average, the report said.
The Scottish Government is “committed to bold action” to reduce smoking rates and wants the country to be at the forefront of international efforts.
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. The government also plans to introduce plain packaging for all cigarettes.
Ash Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “This is a significant achievement and may be a reflection of the impact of measures such as the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, larger picture warnings on packets and raising the age of sale from 16 to 18.
“But our new analysis also highlights areas where we must up our game if we are to be successful in putting smoking out of fashion for the next generation. While tobacco use has reduced, the large inequalities in smoking between rich and poor have remained resistant to change.”
In deprived areas, the smoking rate is 36 per cent compared to around 23 per cent across the country, the report said.
The number of women smoking during pregnancy has fallen to almost 19 per cent, down from 25 per cent in 2001.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy, said: “Scotland has taken a lead in the UK by setting an ambition for a smoke-free generation by 2034, and Ash Scotland’s report demonstrates strong public support for key measures to protect children from tobacco marketing and from second-hand smoke.”