By Ross Gilchrist
A new study suggests minimum pricing should be applied to cigarettes in Scotland.
With the stagnation of smoking cessation rates in poor areas, Scottish health experts have suggested that minimum pricing, along with various other measures, could be applied to tobacco to assist in further reductions.
Patrick Doherty of Addaction Ayrshire, a charity that aids addicts of all manner of substances, said: “It’s unequivocal, in terms of the harm that smoking does, so anything that makes people think twice or look at alternatives, I think, is only to be applauded.
“What’s interesting is that when people are looking to address an addiction or a dependency, their motivation is actually quite high at that point, and what the evidence does show is that people who are looking to quit, or cut down, that that’s an appropriate moment to address other behaviours.
“It’s a public health issue and unlike some in African countries where 85-95% of people who are admitted to hospital is through disease, in Britain, the same figure applies to people with behavioural issues. It’s behaviours that are impacting on national health issues.”
The study’s co-author and principal public health adviser at NHS Health Scotland, Dr Garth Reid, said: “Smoking causes over 10,000 deaths each year and is the biggest cause of preventable death in Scotland.
“But it’s where we are born and the conditions in which we live that influence the likelihood whether or not we smoke.
“Findings from this study highlight that changing the price and availability of tobacco could contribute to reducing health inequalities.”
Other suggestions included, licences, media campaigns, ‘no smoking’ zones around schools, and creating incentives for retailers to not sell alcohol.
But the response to the measures has not been unanimously positive.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ pressure group Forest, said: “Tobacco is a legal product and if adults choose to smoke knowing the risks that choice must be respected.
“Making tobacco even more expensive would discriminate against those who are less well off. It will also fuel illicit trade by encouraging more smokers to buy tobacco illegally.
“Spending money on mass media campaigns or incentivising retailers not to sell tobacco would be gross misuse of public funds.”
He went on to say that the suggestions the report made were, “deeply offensive”, that they were part of a “war on smoking” perpetuated by the middle classes.
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Scotland is making good progress to reduce the harm from smoking – including meeting the target to halve the number of children exposed to second hand smoke at home five years early, banning smoking in cars; new measures on tobacco advertising, packaging and displays, and providing services to help more people to quit smoking.
“We welcome this study and the independent endorsement this provides to our tobacco strategy. Our new tobacco strategy, to publish next year, will support more progress – including targeting smoking rates in communities where people find it most difficult to quit.”