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No time for complacency – where Scotland goes, England follows

It was reported this week that:

Increasing the cost of tobacco or setting a minimum price could be used as part of a campaign to drive down the number of smokers in Scotland.

Public health experts also say reducing the availability of tobacco and incentivising retailers not to sell it may help tackle health inequalities.

NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy (SCPHRP) at the University of Edinburgh have put forward the ideas as part of a new national tobacco strategy.

They also want to see mass media campaigns to encourage smokers to stop, and reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.

See Increased or minimum tobacco price 'could cut number of smokers' (BBC News).

The story appeared on Thursday and was reported widely in Scotland. In response Forest commented:

"This middle class war on smoking has to stop. It's patronising and deeply offensive.

"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.

"Most smokers who want to quit do so without the need for stop smoking services or other state-sponsored initiatives. In recent years a significant number have switched to safer e-cigarettes without government intervention.

"Instead of threatening smokers with further tax increases and other restrictive practices, which only breeds resentment, the government should embrace e-cigarettes and other harm reduction products and remove unnecessary obstacles to their use and promotion."

Edited versions of these comments were reported by BBC News, The Times (Scotland), the Scotsman, Herald, Dundee Courier and Aberdeen Evening Express.

All these reports were based on a press release issued by NHS Health Scotland. Only one journalist appears to have read the "study of expert views" on which it was based, hence this headline in the Scottish Daily Mail:

Now tobacco police want to swab your children to test for smoke

Kate Foster's report isn't online but it begins:

Children should be tested for exposure to smoking as part of a massive crackdown on tobacco, say health experts.

Routine saliva tests could be carried out to find out how much they were being affected by second-hand smoke in the home.

A panel has also called for a smoking ban in parks and universities, and says tobacco should not be sold to under-21s.

Responding to these proposals I told the Mail:

"Checking children’s exposure to second-hand smoke would be a gross invasion of privacy. What next? Could children be taken away from loving parents and into care just because their parents smoke?

"There’s no justification for banning smoking in parks. The inconvenience of being exposed to a whiff of smoke in a public park is minimal and poses no risk to anyone’s health apart from the smoker.

"If you are old enough to be considered an adult, you are old enough to decide if you want to smoke."

I'm sure there are readers who will have switched off at the mention of Scotland. What happens in Scotland matters however because evidence suggests that policies introduced in Scotland tend to be adopted by the rest of the UK.

The smoking ban is the obvious example and to this day I am convinced the Westminster parliament would not have voted for a comprehensive ban in 2006 had Scotland not led the way.

Most of the proposed measures are only ideas but next year the Scottish Government is due to publish a tobacco control strategy and they are currently considering proposals that will help achieve their target of making Scotland 'smoke free' (sic) by 2034.

The announcement in July of the UK Government's tobacco control plan was met with some relief by many people because, for once, there was no mention of further legislation.

I've warned people not to be complacent however because you can be sure the tobacco control industry will continue to lobby for further restrictions on smoking and the sale of tobacco.

The danger is that the Scottish Government will use the war on smoking as a convenient distraction from other, far more important issues including falling standards of education in Scotland.

That, in turn, will encourage the tobacco control industry in England which will use Scotland as a shining example of public health in action.

What is happening in Scotland is therefore of enormous relevance to the future of tobacco control in the rest of UK.

PS. After my appearance on Good Morning Britain on Thursday I later gave a short interview to Reporting Scotland (BBC1 Scotland).

On top of the Budget, it's been another busy week.

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Reader Comments (7)


Remember this is the Scottish national party, they have the same idea as the German national party had in the 1930’s except they are trying to be more subtle. For example they are using smokers as a test case as there is no law against it , they are not recognised as a picked on minority. Also they tried it on with the child protector law,ie all children will have a guardian outwith the family until aged 18, however the courts seen that one off. Now they are trying it with kindergarten schools from 2 years old. In the newspaper today it stated that 2 years old upwards should be taught about consent to allow hugging etc. I really do hope that Johnny public in Scotland realises this and sorts them out at the next election. We unfortunately have in Scotland, idiots like this guy from Aberdeen uni who wishes to stop people smoking in their homes. Also we have idiots running newspapers in Scotland who only print the one side of these stories with no thought to allowing anyone to repudiate or tell the other side of these claims. I hope that one day the absolute story quoting both sides will be published with all evidence for both sides printed and people could then make their own minds up.

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 13:25 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

As a lifelong smoker I can say with hand on heart that I was never subjected to health inequalities until the antismoker industry demanded they be forced upon me.

Tackling health inequalities means creating them as a means to force smokers to quit. They did not exist before the war on smokers began and they were not created by the tobacco companies but anti tobacco bullies.

I hate to do it, but I have found recently that the only way to be treated equally and fairly in any health settng these days, whether hospital, doctor, or dentist, is to say I don't smoke.

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

These policies will make no difference to lung cancer rates in Scotland or England because there is no correlation between cigarette consumption and lung cancer deaths as this chart clearly shows (unless you believe cigarettes can cause lung cancer before they are physically smoked!)

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

These middle class people are waging war on people who enjoy a smoke. They need stopping. How dare they tell people how to live their lives. They should be exposed. Smoking is legal. All the measures needed to stop sales of tobacco to under age people are now in place. No further action is necessary and therefore this continual attack our pleasures needs to stop now !

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 16:40 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

The extremist tobacco control plan advocated in Scotland is no more than mass persecution. It isn't actually grounded in health as the risk of smoking has been severely exaggerated and the risks from second hand smoke are virtually nil. The plan and its draconian components must be resisted, no only to avoid its ultimate reputation in England (Wales, and elsewhere) but also to restore liberty and stem the persecution of smokers in Scotland.

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 18:53 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

What’s never pointed out in the wake of any of these new anti-smoker policies is the fact that, if Governments really, really wanted to achieve a “smoke free” country, they could do so at the stroke of a pen simply by making tobacco illegal. Of course, everybody knows that making something illegal doesn’t stop it happening – if it did then we’d have no need for a police force or a legal system – but in terms of stats it would look like they’d achieved their dream of a “smoke free” country, because if tobacco was illegal, not a soul would ever admit to smoking any more and, with no legal places to buy tobacco, there would be no evidence of tobacco being purchased by anyone, either. On paper it would be: “Hey presto! Look! No-one smokes any more!” And you’d think that the temptation of being able to claim the bragging rights of being the first-ever “smoke free” country would be one that they would rush to bring about at the earliest opportunity, given how much they love to show how much they hate smokers.

So one has to question their real motivations here. Bearing in mind that they are conspicuously not doing this one thing which would achieve the ultimate “protection of people’s health” that they say is their reason, one cannot help but come to the rather uncomfortable conclusion that maybe – just maybe – their real reason for thinking up ever-more imaginative and hurtful ways to torture smokers into “doing the right thing” in such a long drawn-out fashion is, ultimately, because deep down inside, they enjoy it, plain and simple. Criminalising smokers would put a stop to all that, because they would no longer know who they could bully and who they couldn’t. Of course, they could apply policies such as these to everybody (on the basis that they might be smokers, using the old "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument), but then they’d be giving themselves permission to intrude into everyone's personal lives, not just those of a minority, and that’s nowhere near so easy to do and get away with. And that personal characteristic – the enjoyment of persecuting a minority, simply because they can – amongst people in positions of not-inconsiderable power, such as MPs and SMPs, is, quite frankly, more than a little bit worrying – in fact, it’s downright scary.

Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 2:37 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

As an eighty one year old I'm a nonsmoker, that's not to say I've never put a cigarette between my lips. Yes I've tried it and never quite got the knack of it somehow, maybe I've been lucky not to become dependant on it.
As a child the thing I liked doing was looking in the the old style Tobacconist shop windows, I have to mention I loved the layouts in those windows and their interiors. I must say I love the sweet nostalgia of those times, the demise of those old shops is really sad.
When it comes to health issues there is no doubt in my mind that smoking is bad for some people, but not for some others. We're all individuals who have strengths and weaknesses, some people are more susceptible to certain environments and substances. I often feel that it's wrong that they should say we're all out of the same mould. There are some folks who can take great care of their health and die young, my own brother being one of them. I know of many more friends and acquaintances who have lived hard and died in their nineties.

Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 22:28 | Unregistered CommenterDan E

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