Scotland unveils smoking prevention action plan

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to cut the number of young people who take up smoking.

Public health minister Shona Robison unveiled 'Scotland's future is smoke-free, A Smoking Prevention Action Plan' on Wednesday (May 21st), in which a number of plans are outlined with the aim of discouraging youngsters from smoking.

Key plans include restrictions on the display of tobacco products at points of sale, and updating the statutory controls on the sale of tobacco products, potentially including the introduction of sanctions such as cautions and fixed penalty notices.

The Scottish Government is also considering outlawing cigarettes in packs of ten, and further measures to reduce underage sales from vending machines.

Scottish ministers will also work with the UK government and other devolved administrations to consider plain packaging for cigarettes.

Ms Robison said: "Reducing the number of smokers in Scotland is a key part of our drive to turn the tide of Scotland's poor health record. We simply can't afford to ignore the damage that smoking does as both the human and economic costs are horrendous."

The minister said that progress has already been made, particularly through the ban on smoking in public places. However, she noted that 80 per cent of smokers start in their teens and that someone who starts smoking at the age of 15 is three times more likely to die from smoking-related cancer than someone who starts in their mid-20s.

She continued: "As well as encouraging existing smokers to kick the habit, it's crucial that we stop youngsters from starting. Today's action plan is specifically aimed at doing just that by making cigarettes and other tobacco products less accessible, less attractive and less affordable to them.

"I am in no doubt that the prominent display of cigarettes in shops undermines our efforts to shift cultural perceptions of smoking - as does the apparent ease with which cigarettes can be bought. Protecting young people from the impact of tobacco must be paramount and there are instances - and this is one - when the benefits to the health of the nation must take precedence.

"This action plan proposes an ambitious programme of measures which will further de-normalise smoking in Scotland. Through these measures I believe we can take significant steps towards our vision of a smoke-free Scotland."

The plan draws on 31 recommendations made by the Smoking Prevention Working Group, which was chaired by Laurence Gruer, director of public health at NHS Health Scotland.

Mr Gruer said: "I am very encouraged that the government has acted on our advice. The action plan is exactly the package of tough but sensible measures we need to cut the number of young people in Scotland who become addicted to this toxic substance."

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, added: "Promotional displays in shops are one of the last bastions of tobacco marketing. We know young people are heavily influenced by marketing and tend to experiment with the most visible brands. Putting cigarettes out of sight will support smokers who are trying to quit, and reduce the tobacco industry's influence on children."