Scottish Executive backs plans to raise age for cigarettes

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Scottish Executive (SE) has backed plans to raise the minimum age for cigarette sales from 16 to 18.

Scottish health minister Andy Kerr said that new laws to raise the age limit could be in place by as early as February or March next year.

The call for an increase to the minimum age was made in a report from the SE's Smoking Prevention Working Group on Wednesday.

Alongside the legislation, the SE will also launch a crackdown on shops supplying cigarettes and other tobacco products to the under-aged.

"The legislation here is clear, the responsibility of vendors is clear so there are no excuses," Mr Kerr told the BBC.

"I'm sure we have to be much more assertive around controlling those who sell cigarettes to those who are clearly underage, as we are doing with test purchasing schemes at the moment."

The report recommended that those caught supplying tobacco products to the under aged could face a complete ban on selling them.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "We welcome an increase in the age of purchase in Scotland - as well as throughout the UK - as a measure aimed at reducing the availability of cigarettes to young people.

"But it is imperative that the law is properly enforced from the outset.

"This should include an effective communication campaign for both retailers and the general public; a robust licensing system; and penalties that reprimand retailers who flout the law.

"Changing the age of purchase should be part of a comprehensive strategy regulating many aspects of tobacco products such as product availability, packaging and promotion."

The report cited figures showing that five per cent of boys and seven per cent of girls in Scotland were regular smokers at the age of 13, rising to 14 and 24 per cent by age 15.