A government target to reduce the number of smokers in Scotland to below 5 per cent of the population by 2034 will not be met if the number of people quitting smoking does not increase dramatically, a report has claimed.
A study by Frontier Economics, commissioned by tobacco giant Philip Morris Limited, said that Scotland would fall ten years short of its goal if people continue to give up smoking at the current rate.
The report found that to meet the 2034 target will require an average 36,000 quitters each year – more than two and a half times the less than 14,000 annual average reduction in smokers observed over the last five years.
It said that achieving that higher figure will require a greater uptake in use of NHS Stop Smoking services and an increase in switching to less harmful alternatives.
The Scottish Government set the 5 per cent target in 2013, as part of its five year tobacco control strategy, ‘Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation’.
Government figures from 2016 show that there are around 941,000 smokers in Scotland – while the report estimated that 717,000 would need to quit to meet the five per cent target.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Quitting is the best thing a smoker can do to improve their health. Our new Tobacco Strategy, which will be published in this year, will focus on addressing health inequalities and targeting smoking rates in the communities where people find it most difficult to quit.
“We continue to ensure that the right type of support is in place through our cessation services, including supporting people to select aids to suit their own needs.”
The report said that switching to e-cigarettes is another way to reduce smoking prevalence. However, it added that while there are already over 300,000 e-cigarette users in Scotland, the number of new vapers has fallen significantly, from 90,000 in 2015 to just 1,600 in 2016.
Mark MacGregor, spokesman for Philip Morris, said: “We want Scotland to be smoke-free as soon as possible – 2044 is simply far too late. But we need to find new ways to encourage smokers to stop using cigarettes. There are now more options than ever before – including e-cigarettes and heated tobacco.”