• Kenneth Gibson MSP

Moving Towards a Tobacco-free Scotland



Last month the SNP Government released its smoking strategy, Raising Scotland’s Tobacco Free Generation, which sets out plans for the next five years to help children and young people to become Scotland’s first tobacco-free generation by 2034.

This Tobacco Control Action Plan sets out 44 specific actions to address health inequalities and cut smoking rates in those communities where people find it most difficult to quit. These include legislating to restrict smoking around hospital buildings, banning tobacco in prisons and establishing a new national stop-smoking service.

Smoking continues to be the greatest threat to public health in Scotland by some margin and is the cause of around one in five of all deaths. Our children deserve the best possible start in life and protecting them from the undeniable harm caused by tobacco is a central part of this.

Currently, around 1.5 million people in Scotland smoke, and cigarette smoke contains more than 4,500 compounds. These include acetaldehyde, a carcinogen, acetone, which damages the liver and kidneys, and ammonia, a cause of asthma and high blood pressure. According to Cancer Research UK, in 2015, cigarette smoking was responsible for 5,736 people being diagnosed with cancer in Scotland. These figures are hard to ignore and it is vital that we act to safeguard the health and future of our young people.

Progress has already been made. The number of children exposed to second hand smoke has halved in five years and the introduction of plain packaging and a crackdown on cigarette sales to under-18s have played vital roles. The new strategy builds upon this important work and takes us ever closer to our goal.

This is an issue that I have fought strongly for since I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament back in 1999 when I founded the Cross-Party Group on Tobacco Control which has evolved into Improving Scotland’s Health: 2021 And Beyond. This takes a solutions-oriented focus on reducing the harm caused by tobacco, alcohol, poor diet and obesity, with a range of individuals and groups committed to improving public health and most importantly preventing and reducing non-communicable diseases for the next generation.

In this group, I work closely with ASH Scotland, the independent Scottish charity acting to reduce tobacco harm. Their Chief Executive, Sheila Duffy, has added her support to the new strategy, stating:

"I’m delighted that the SNP Government has renewed its commitment to a tobacco-free generation by 2034 – the vision for putting cigarettes completely out of fashion by the time today’s children reach adulthood.”

Most recently, in May, I asked the Public Health Minister about the links between smoking and the discussion around breathing clean air. As the Minister stated in her response, and as I strongly agree, we must continue to do everything possible to persuade people to stop smoking. Our efforts in Scotland have been bold and there is already a record low in the numbers of teenagers smoking.

Scotland is the first UK nation to set this impressive target of eliminate smoking from society by 2034. Quitting is the best thing smokers can do to improve their own health and it is vital that we continue to ensure that people are able to access support to help them to quit.

There’s no single approach that will work for everyone. I urge all smokers, even those who have tried to quit through NHS services before, to give it another go. There are new, more effective medications and services are now more e-cigarette friendly, with all focussed on the same message: Quit Your Way: with our support.

The full Tobacco-Control Action Plan is at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00537031.pdf

ENDS