Tobacco use is the primary preventable cause of ill health and premature death. Each year in Scotland, it is associated with over 13,000 deaths (around a quarter of all deaths in Scotland every year) and 56,000 hospital admissions. Annual costs to Scotland's health service associated with tobacco-related illness are estimated to exceed £300m and may be higher than £500m.
Effective tobacco control in Scotland is therefore central to realising the right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of health for everyone. Reducing the number of people who take up smoking, supporting those who do smoke to quit and protecting people from second-hand smoke have long been clear public health priorities for the Scottish Government.
Since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, clear and decisive action has helped shift cultural attitudes to smoking. Measures include a complete ban on tobacco advertising in 2002, smoke-free public places legislation in 2005, an increase in the age for tobacco sales from 16 to 18 in 2007, the recent ban on tobacco vending machines and the ban on the display of tobacco and smoking-related products in shops. Alongside this, record levels of funding continue to be invested in NHS smoking cessation services and comprehensive awareness-raising campaigns.
Scotland was the first country in the UK to commit to the introduction of standardised packaging, and we remain convinced that it will have a positive impact on public health. Following a decision by the UK Government to consult again on standardised packaging, a Legislative Consent Motion was secured in the Scottish Parliament to allow the UK Government to introduce UK wide regulations. We will continue to work closely with all the other UK administrations to ensure that this important measure becomes a reality as soon as possible.
On 27 March 2013 our latest Tobacco Control Strategy, Creating a Tobacco-free Generation, was launched. This reaffirmed our vision for a tobacco-free Scotland and set a world-leading target to achieve this by 2034. This will mean that a child born in 2013 will become an adult in a Scotland which is largely devoid of tobacco-use with all the health, social and economic benefits that entails. This would be an achievement of which we should all be proud - whatever our personal choices, we can surely agree that we would prefer our children to choose not to smoke.
This is a challenging target. Achieving it will require a determined effort to support people to choose not to smoke. Our current Strategy sets out a package of measures to move us along this journey over the next five years. Fundamental to this is the need to continue to protect young people from messaging and behaviours that promote smoking as a normal activity.
This message was key to the work of the Youth Commission on Smoking Prevention in Scotland. They undertook a year-long work programme to present the views of young people on what measures are needed to protect future generations from the harms caused by tobacco.
Since the publication of our latest Tobacco Control Strategy, there has been an increase in the sale, promotion and popularity of Electronic Cigarettes (e-cigarette). These devices are mainly used as an alternative to, or in addition to, tobacco. There has been much interest and debate around the potential impact of these devices on both smokers and non-smokers and how they should be regulated.
Our Tobacco Control Strategy includes a commitment to consider what action is required to regulate the use of these products which balances any potential benefit to current smokers with the need to protect those who don't smoke, particularly young people, from any potential harm.
Until Scotland is smoke-free we must also continue to ensure that non-smokers, particularly children and young people, are protected from harm caused by passive smoking. This consultation therefore also seeks views on the proposal to ban smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18.
The primary aim of this consultation is to invite views on a range of potential measures for the sale and use of electronic cigarettes and strengthening tobacco control in Scotland. Throughout the document it will be clear that there are some measures that the Scottish Government are committed to, and on others, we remain open minded about the need for intervention.
Email: Claire McDermott