Cancer Research UK welcomes Scotland's landmark commitment to a tobacco free future

Cancer Research UK

Aiming to have fewer than five per cent of the population smoke by 2034 puts Scotland at the forefront of global efforts to reduce the damage caused by tobacco.

Welcoming the release of Scotland’s tobacco control strategy today (Wednesday) Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Dr Harpal Kumar, said: “With thousands of children starting to smoke every year and more than a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK linked to smoking, urgent action is needed to tackle the devastation caused by tobacco.

“We share the Scottish Government’s vision of a Scotland free from tobacco. For too long, smoking has been seen as an everyday activity. But it is actually an addictive, lethal activity that kills half of all long-term users. There is no level of smoking that is safe. Too many people have been trapped into this addiction, either as children or further back, by members of our armed forces being given cigarettes as part of their daily rations. The ambition of a tobacco free society is one that every country should strive for.

“The specific commitment to introduce plain packaging is a real step forward in the fight to protect children from tobacco addiction. Replacing glitzy, brightly coloured packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings would be a huge public health achievement and give youngsters one less reason to start smoking.”

New Zealand and Finland are the only two other countries who have committed to a date for going smokefree – New Zealand by 2025 and Finland by 2040.

A key pledge in the new strategy is to support the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products. A public consultation by the UK government on the future of tobacco packaging closed in August 2012.

Cancer Research UK is urging the UK Government to respond favourably and quickly to the consultation. A growing number of expert reports back the removal of brightly coloured and slickly designed packs.

On Monday, a parliamentary report* outlined that the introduction of plain, standardised packs would make little or no difference to the level of tobacco smuggling and illicit trade in the UK, contradicting claims from the tobacco industry.

Dr. Kumar continued: “We would like to see the ambitions of Scotland spread across the rest of UK. Smoking is a lethal addiction responsible for at least 14 different types of cancer. Our research shows that around 207,000 under 16s start smoking in the UK every year. It’s time to act. We call on the UK government to put the health of children ahead of the demands of the tobacco industry. For years, the industry denied the link between smoking and lung cancer.  It is time to protect our children from their lethal product.”

ENDS

For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

Visit "Setting the Standard" for more information about Cancer Research UK’s campaign on tobacco packaging.

* A report of an inquiry into the illicit trade in tobacco products was issued on Monday, 25 March by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health. This is a cross-party group of MPs and Peers, chaired by Stephen Williams MP. The full report can be downloaded here.