Tobacco blight

No SERIOUS commentator will deny that tobacco is a major blight on Scotland’s public health. Despite recent successes in lowering the prevalence of smoking, tobacco is still implicated in one out of every four adult deaths.

Smoking-related deaths are rarely quick and painless, and have a massive impact on the families and communities left to grieve.

To understand the difficulty in dislodging tobacco use from our society, we must note the highly addictive nature of the substance.

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Seventy per cent of Scottish smokers indicate that they want to quit but struggle to do so. Add the fact that two-thirds of smokers start before they are 18, and we have a clear picture of an addiction of childhood, where a decision made in adolescence goes on to kill half of those who do not, or cannot, quit.

The tobacco industry relies on the lingering attraction tobacco holds for young people to recruit new generations of smokers, and every day roughly 40 young Scots take up smoking.

With limited opportunities for advertising, tobacco packaging now represents the main opportunity for tobacco companies to promote their products as sophisticated, elegant, slimming, rugged or attractive. And this is reflected in the burgeoning array of cigarette brands, varieties and designs, carefully crafted to give these impressions.

Anyone who has spent much time in the company of teenagers will be aware that they are acutely conscious of brands and marketing, and a large and growing body of evidence now suggests that requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain, unbranded packaging will undermine attempts to graft positive attributes on to smoking, and will make tobacco products less attractive to young people.

We therefore welcome the Westminster government’s public consultation on introducing plain packaging for tobacco in the UK. We urge all those who care about the future of our youth to respond to the consultation and to support the measure.

(Prof) Keith Fox

British Cardiovascular Society and president, ASH Scotland

(Dr) Neil Dewhurst

Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh

(Prof) Raj Bhopal

(Prof) Amanda Amos

University of Edinburgh

(Prof) Jill Pell

University of Glasgow

(Prof) Sally Haw

University of Stirling