Scotland's Future is Smoke Free: A Smoking Prevention Action Plan

A smoking prevention Action Plan


"Those who sell to the underage should be fined, and if they reoffend they should lose the right to sell tobacco products":
Philip Morris International, tobacco company

Current activity

5.1 Bearing in mind young people can only smoke if they are able to buy or otherwise get hold of cigarettes, measures to protect young people from the impact of tobacco, through legislation and other forms of regulation/control are a vital component of any smoking prevention strategy. It was for this reason, as recommended by the SPWG, that the age of sale was raised from 16 to 18 with effect from 1 October 2007. The SPWG report reviews the evidence and assesses efforts made to date to reduce youth access to cigarettes and other tobacco control products:

  • The Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, which originally set the age of sale for tobacco at 16, was strengthened in 1991 to create new offences and penalties, including for selling unpackaged cigarettes. It also gave courts the power to order the removal of cigarette vending machines where the court is satisfied an underage young person has used it.
  • The steps taken since 1999 to strengthen enforcement activity, including the decision by the Lord Advocate, in February 2005, to allow evidence gained through test purchasing to be admissible as evidence.
  • In March 2000 the UK Government created the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy 10 focusing on tackling the trade in smuggled cigarettes backed by a £209m funding package (see also paragraph 6.1).

Future direction

5.2 Tobacco products are widely available from retail outlets across Scotland and smuggled tobacco products are also available, particularly in more disadvantaged areas. The SPWG report calls for more vigorous enforcement of the tobacco sales law and for more effective measures to tackle tobacco smuggling. In determining the way forward, key points we have borne in mind are:

  • Surveys which suggest that young people have little difficulty in accessing cigarettes either from a range of shops or from vending machines
  • Evidence pointing to more stringent underage sales policies being associated with lower youth smoking rates
  • Good evidence to suggest vigorous enforcement of under-age sales law does reduce tobacco sales to minors
  • The suggestion that statutory controls can contribute to shifting social norms by making smoking less socially acceptable within communities across Scotland
  • The response to consultation which suggest that, while there is strong support for more vigorous enforcement of tobacco sales law, retailing interests are not convinced of the need for what they perceive to be a further burden to be placed on legitimate business by the introduction of a licensing scheme.


Against this background the Scottish Government proposes:

15. To work in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA), Scottish local authorities, the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland ( SCOTSS) and other relevant interests to develop an outcome-focused scheme to secure more rigorous enforcement of tobacco sales law. Also, as per Action 20, to ensure this complements action to reduce illicit sales of tobacco.
Delivery lead: Scottish Government/Local authorities. Timescale: Launch scheme by end 2008

16. To review and update statutory controls on the sale of tobacco products. This will involve a number of possible measures, including the introduction of a system of licensing and new sanctions such as cautions and fixed penalty notices for breaches of the law.
Delivery lead: Scottish Government. Timescale: At the earliest legislative opportunity

17. To consider with relevant stakeholders, including at UK level, what further steps, including legislative, might be taken to reduce illegal sales of cigarettes from vending machines as part of the review at Action 16.
Delivery lead: Scottish Government. Timescale: As per Action 16

18. To continue to work with all relevant stakeholders, including retailers, to promote and embed a "no proof, no sale" culture, including through measures to encourage the uptake of Young Scot/Dialogue Youth "National Entitlement Card".
Delivery lead: Scottish Government. Timescale: Ongoing

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