Scotland is the third nation in the world to set an ambitious target to become tobacco-free – by having less than five per cent the population choosing to smoke by 2034. The aim is part of a new tobacco control strategy, launched to reduce the number of people choosing to smoke. The strategy supports the introduction of standardised packaging and education programmes to prevent young people from starting to smoke. Services to help people stop smoking are to be improved and measures to protect people from the harms caused by second-hand smoke are also included in the strategy.
Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson launched the new strategy during a visit to an education programme for 16-24 year olds in Carnegie College, Fife. Mr Matheson said: “We’ve already seen the huge health benefits that followed the ban on smoking in public places. This Government is determined to build on this success, improving health and reducing health inequalities by reducing the number of people smoking. Our vision of a tobacco-free generation is about reaping the health, social and economic benefits that a significant reduction in smoking would bring – it would be an achievement of which we could all be proud. That’s why strong and decisive action, like standardised packaging and increased education, are the right steps to prevent young people from taking up smoking.”
The key actions from the tobacco control strategy include:
- Setting 2034 as a target for a tobacco-free Scotland
- Supporting the introduction of standardised packaging
- Investing in education programmes for young people
- Implementing smoke-free hospital grounds by 2015
- Delivering a national marketing campaign on the danger of second-hand smoke
- Setting a target for reducing children’s exposure to second hand smoke.
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland said: “The tobacco-free generation is a vision well worth striving for – that a child born now in any part of Scotland will reach adulthood breathing clean air, being free from tobacco addiction, and living in a community where to smoke is unusual. This vision needs to carry through into all work and engagement with young people, families and communities. Scotland’s strategy shows international leadership with its focus on youth smoking prevention and on reducing inequalities. The commitment to setting a target to reduce children’s exposure to second-hand smoke looks to be a world first. We owe it to our children to make this happen.”
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, 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 and the 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.”
Ben McKendrick, Senior Policy & Public Affairs Manager at British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Scottish Government leading the way again on tobacco measures to protect health, and giving a commitment to de-glamorise tobacco packaging – this is a killer product and should not look appealing to young people. We want young people with healthy hearts, and to be under no misunderstanding that cigarettes are highly addictive and that smoking can double your risk of having a heart attack.”
Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling said:
“Australia recently introduced plain packaging, but in advance of that there were a number of studies that looked at this issue. We brought these studies together in a recent systematic review of the evidence. The findings are very consistent and show that plain packaging would reduce the appeal of cigarettes, improve the impact of health warnings on packs and help to reduce misunderstandings about the harmfulness of smoking. As part of the other actions set out in this strategy, plain packaging will have a key role to play in driving down smoking rates in Scotland in the future.”
The Scottish Government will await the UK Government and the other Devolved Administrations’ responses to the UK wide consultation on standardised packaging before deciding on the most appropriate legislative option for introducing this initiative.
Two other countries have set similar targets. New Zealand aims to be tobacco-free by 2025. Finland plans to be tobacco-free by 2040.