Scotland gets tougher on smoking

The Scottish executuve has backed plans to raise the smoking age to 18
The Scottish executuve has backed plans to raise the smoking age to 18

Ministers in Scotland have backed proposals to raise the smoking age from 16 to 18 after an executive-commissioned report recommended the move.

The health department said it would consider implementing the recommendations made by the smoking prevention working group before next May's Holyrood elections.

Smokers in Scotland were barred from lighting up in public places in March, but the working group yesterday proposed 31 new measures to tackle smoking, including a ban on the display of cigarettes.

It also wants to crack down on shopkeepers selling to underage smokers by punishing them with tough fines and a "negative licensing" scheme which would ban persistent offenders from selling tobacco products.

"Smoking is deeply rooted within our society, particularly in some of our most deprived communities," wrote deputy health minister Tom McCabe in the foreword to the report.

He stressed there was "no question of forcing people to stop smoking", but added: "We want smokers to listen and act upon clear evidence about the harm that their habit can do to themselves and the people around them.

"We want young people to see that smoking is as 'uncool' as it is harmful. We want to see a society in which everybody aspires to live a healthy, smoke-free life and has access to the support that can help them realise this ambition."

In 2004 five per cent of boys and seven per cent of girls were regular smokers at the age of 13 and by the time they reach 15 that rises to 14 and 24 per cent, the report says.

And it argues: "More than any other single thing, the cigarette has blighted the health and shortened the lives of people in Scotland for over a century.

"If the health of people in Scotland is to be improved and inequalities reduced, smoking prevention must be a top priority."

The executive welcomed the report "and, in particular, its support for the raising of the tobacco purchase age". Officials would "begin the preparatory steps for implementing this recommendation", a spokesman said, which would "of course, be subject to the outcome of appropriate consultation, especially with young people's organisations including the Scottish youth parliament".

Anti-smoking campaigners Ash Scotland have welcomed the "strong and sensible" proposals. Chief executive Maureen Moore said ending cigarette displays in shops would "not just stop children from starting smoking, it will also support older smokers who are trying to quit".

"The massive displays are just a way for the tobacco industry to advertise their products," she argued.

Smokers' lobby group Forest said raising the age for buying tobacco had "some merit" because smoking should be an "adult activity". However, spokesman Neil Rafferty condemned the proposals as "patronising and indicative of the nanny state".


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