ASH Scotland publishes tobacco control recommendations

In collaboration with Adfero

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland has published a set of 33 recommendations for a new tobacco control strategy north of the border.

The public health campaign group worked with an advisory group of experts to develop the new 'Beyond Smoke-free' document, which was funded by Cancer Research UK.

Recommended measures include new targets to tackle illicit tobacco; a positive award or incentive scheme for retailers who choose not to sell tobacco; a wider variety of evidence-based approaches to smoking cessation; and a consultation on introducing legislation to ban smoking in vehicles.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said that innovative and aspirational action is needed to tackle smoking - the country's biggest preventable killer.

"Beyond Smoke-free is ambitious, radical and far-reaching," she said. "It contains robust yet achievable recommendations. To truly tackle tobacco which is a uniquely addictive and lethal product, ambition, vision and innovation is needed."

Ms Duffy observed that Scotland has already taken "major steps" to reduce smoking and tobacco-related ill-health since the publication of the country's first ever tobacco control action plan six years ago.

"However much more needs to be done," she insisted. "A quarter of all adult deaths are due to smoking-related diseases. That is six times as many people dying from tobacco than all the deaths from homicide, suicide, falls, poisoning and accidents - including traffic accidents - combined. How can we let that continue?"

Smoking prevalence remains high in Scotland's most disadvantaged communities, with the most deprived areas recording smoking rates of 43 per cent.

Meanwhile, 15,000 of young people start smoking each year, and Ms Duffy emphasised the importance of preventing youngsters from taking up the habit.

"Devolution has proven to be successful in starting to fully tackle Scotland's historic problem of smoking, our high prevalence, and our high deaths and disease rates," she noted.

"Successive governments have shown courage and determination in reducing smoking but much more needs to be done. I hope the Scottish Government that is elected in 2011 will show ambition and aspiration and pursue a clear agenda on how we can continue to eradicate the major health impact smoking has on Scotland's people."

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, agreed that a new strategy that prevents people from smoking, helps smokers to quit and protects youngsters from secondhand smoke and tobacco marketing is "vital" in Scotland.

She said: "Despite Scotland's progress in reducing smoking rates over the last ten years, smoking is still Scotland's biggest cause of preventable death.

"Scotland has often led the way in protecting people from the harmful effects of tobacco. The Scottish Government that is elected next year must continue to do so - by implementing the measures outlined in this report - to help prevent the tens of thousands of people dying each year in Scotland from tobacco use, and so that we can make smoking history for future generations."