Scotland to unveil new anti-smoking laws

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Scottish government has unveiled plans to introduce new anti-smoking legislation designed to protect youngsters against the health effects of smoking.

The measures are contained in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill and include Cancer Research UK-supported bans on cigarette vending machines and tobacco displays in shops.

Previous research by the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Abuse Survey 2006 found that 82 per cent of 15-year-old smokers had been illegally sold cigarettes in a shop, while up to 40 per cent of vending machine sales are to children between the ages of 13 and 15.

Other measures in the bill include a registration scheme for retailers who want to sell tobacco products and fixed penalty notices for retailers who sell cigarettes to under-18s.

In addition, shops which are caught breaking the law on several occasions could be served with a banning order preventing them from selling tobacco products in the future.

Public health minister Shona Robison revealed that the main aim of the legislation is to protect future generations from the harmful effects of smoking.

The minister said that the health risks associated with smoking are "enormous and well documented" and that the majority of smokers wish they had never started.

"That's why the measures in this bill are aimed at stopping children starting to smoke in the first place - by making it less accessible and less attractive to them," she explained.

"Point of sale marketing is a powerful tool and I believe it's totally inappropriate for cigarettes to be promoted in this way. Similarly, I believe there is no place in a modern Scotland for cigarette vending machines - we wouldn't allow any other dangerous product to be sold in this way."

Ms Robison noted that many people have watched loved ones die as a result of smoking-related illnesses and insisted that the government must do "all we can" to protect future generations.

"That's why we're taking these radical steps - because someone who starts smoking at 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer than someone who starts in their mid-20s," she added.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "We wholeheartedly support today's announcement and the measures in this bill. Yet again Scotland leads the rest of the UK. This is a serious commitment to protecting young people from tobacco with the potential to prevent many people from becoming addicted to a product that kills half of all long-term users. We urge the Scottish Parliament to pass this legislation as a priority."

Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, noted that tobacco is one of the most addictive drugs and that it is "unequivocally bad for you".

"Smoking causes enormous harm to people's health and I don't believe there is any justification for continuing to advertise such a dangerous product or make it freely available through vending machines," he said.

"Preventing young people taking up smoking is now one of the biggest challenges facing us and this bill is designed to tackle that."