Support given for smoking control strategy

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Plans to make Scotland a tobacco free zone have been highlighted by the Scottish Government in a new tobacco control strategy was launched by Public Health Minister Michael Matheson on Wednesday, March 27.

As part of the strategy it is hoped that by 2034 less than five per cent of the population will be smokers - a move that has been welcomed by Angus North and Mearns MSP Nigel Don.

To help reduce smoking numbers a number of proposals have been highlighted including the banning of cigarette displays in larger stores and tobacco vending machines by April 29 of this year. Smaller shops have until April 6, 2015 to comply with this ruling.

Hospital grounds, excluding Mental Health Hospitals, will become smoke-free zones by March 2015. This will involve the removal of any designated smoking areas in NHS Board buildings or ground.

Also by 2015 all local authorities should have implement fully smoke-free policies across their properties and surrounding grounds by 2015, including setting out appropriate enforcement measures.

Scotland become the first part of the UK to officially support the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products and will now await the UK Government and other Devolved Administrations’ responses to the UK wide consultation on standardised packaging before deciding on the most appropriate legislative option for introducing this initiative.

Nigel Don MSP said: “I am pleased to support the recently announced strategies proposed by the Minister for Public Health.

“No one can dispute that the Scottish Government is taking the health of its people seriously.

“By adopting policies to drastically reduce smoking over the next two decades, we will make Scotland a leader among nations.”

In addition to putting restrictive measures on smoking the Government has set out plans to implement educational programmes for young people and carrying out a marketing campaign on the dangers posed by second-hand smoke - with the aim of reducing children’s exposure to secondhand smoke.

Since 1999 the number of people in Scotland who smoke has declined from 31 per cent to 23.3 per cent in 2011.

However, smoking rates in the most deprived communities in Scotland remain disproportionately high – 40 per cent in the most deprived areas compared to 11 per cent in the least deprived areas.

Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, said: “Whilst the Scottish Government has long made clear its aspiration for a tobacco-free Scotland, this Strategy sets the date by which we hope to realise this ambition.

“Our focus is on doing all we can to encourage children and young people to choose not to smoke. By so doing, we hope to create a tobacco-free generation of Scots by 2034.

“To achieve this goal – defined here as a smoking prevalence among the adult population of 5% or lower – we need to continue to promote the shift in social attitudes so that choosing not to smoke is the normal thing no matter who you are or where you live.

“Whilst the actions set out in this Strategy rightly focus on prevention, we are also committed to providing the very best services and support we can for those who wish to stop smoking. And, in working to reduce smoking prevalence through prevention and cessation activities, we need to maintain our focus on protecting people, especially children, from the harms caused by secondhand smoke.

“Perhaps the most troubling aspect of current smoking patterns is the hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland’s most deprived communities.

“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.”