Up in Smoke

Looking ahead to a new tobacco control strategy for Scotland

by Feb 25, 2013 17 Comments

smoking_in_carSmoke-free public places was a “great innovation” that changed people’s lives, reflects the convener of the Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Tobacco Control, Willie Rennie MSP.

“It didn’t just change the lives of nonsmokers by not having to put up with smoke in restaurants and bars and other public places, but also has encouraged smokers to give up by making it a little bit more difficult for them and not making it the social norm to smoke… It has been such a radical change in public life and I think it has been one for the good,” says the Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader.

The Scottish Government will soon publish its new tobacco strategy in which it will set out its commitment to go a step further and make Scotland smoke-free. The CPG was briefed on a draft version of the strategy late last year and Rennie says that while he is encouraged by the ambition within it, there were concerns about the lack of detail.

“You can go for a smoke-free Scotland, which is technically below 5 per cent. But you need to have the policies that detail how you are going to get there.”

He continues: “It is easy setting targets; it is much more difficult doing it, as we’ve found out with the climate change targets. You really need the detail as to how you are going to achieve these things.”

Sheila Duffy, chief executive, ASH Scotland, says the Scottish health community eagerly awaits the new strategy on tobacco and health.

She points out that the current strategy, A Breath of Fresh Air for Scotland, has been “highly successful”.

“Although at the time it was written it seemed at the leading edge and quite visionary and hopeful, by the time we got to the end of it, I think people were surprised by how far we’d come and how much had been accomplished and how normal it had become to have things like smoke-free public places.”

Duffy would now like Scotland to broaden its vision and consider the lessons from further afield, pointing to Australia where standardised packaging for tobacco products was introduced at the beginning of December last year, and New Zealand, which recently decided in principle to introduce plain packs following a public consultation.

A UK-wide consultation on the topic closed six months ago, however, the UK Government is yet to respond. Rennie supports the move and says he has been speaking to Liberal Democrat health minister, Norman Lamb MP about this.

“I explained the logic of the argument and he wasn’t unsympathetic. He obviously has to convince the other members of the Coalition as well. But I think because smoke-free public places were so successful — quite radical at the time — but so successful, I think we will be able to convince them as well that there are merits in doing so.”

Duffy worries that with around 40 young people taking up smoking each day, further delay may cost lives.

“I think the worry with tobacco control measures is if you delay or if you deflect, it costs lives. And in this case what we are talking about is the number of young people that are becoming addicted to tobacco, who are starting to use it. The tobacco companies have a 40-a-day habit in Scotland. So we think it is really important that strong action is taken to close down that pipeline of new recruits to tobacco and we are urging the Scottish Government to bring out a very strong strategy to do that,” says Duffy.

Ben McKendrick, senior policy and public affairs manager, BHF Scotland, argues that while smoking rates have fallen, they still stand at around 23 per cent of all adults aged 16 and over, and are significantly higher in deprived communities. He says it is “crucial” that we get these rates down.

“For someone who smokes, the most important thing they can do to improve their heart health is to quit or not start in the first place. Tobacco remains a key risk factor for heart disease and continuing to drive down smoking rates will, arguably, be the most significant thing that governments can do to continue to improve heart health and cut the rate of deaths from heart disease.”

He believes we are at an important moment in tobacco control and shares Duffy’s determination to see standardised packaging introduced across the UK.

“I think it is certainly something that is worth fighting for. It is clearly the case that the pack is one of the last, if not the last, bastions of advertising of this product. As well as fairly clear evidence suggesting that standardised plain packaging would reduce the attractiveness of these products, I think there is also quite an important principle there that something that is highly addictive, that kills half of the people who use it, should not be allowed to be marketed in a way that seeks to attract people, particularly younger people.”

Dr James Cant, Head of BLF Scotland and Northern Ireland, concurs it is the next logical step in denormalising tobacco use: “Buying fatal substances in a supermarket is not normal. That danger shouldn’t be disguised by fancy, designer packaging. Plain packaging will expose tobacco as the dangerous substance it is.”

The previous smoking ban forced us all to take tobacco very seriously, he argues, and says he would now like to see Scotland build on its successes by sharpening its focus on the dangers posed by second-hand smoke, particularly for children.

“We recognise these dangers and we’re protecting office workers or those who work in bars — yet we’re still allowing children to be exposed on a daily basis. A child in the back seat of a car, where an adult is smoking, is exposed to incredible levels of SHS. If the equivalent concentration was experienced outside, the Government would be warning people to stay indoors and avoid physical activity.

“This is something that must be addressed if the Government is serious about building on the success of its previous strategy. Children don’t always have the power to remove themselves from the source of second-hand smoke so we’d like them to receive the same amount of protection from that the rest of us are enjoying.”

Duffy, McKendrick and Rennie all support a debate around smoking in cars to raise awareness as an initial step, pointing out that while the car is a semi-private space it is one that is already regulated, for example, through the mandatory use of seatbelts and a ban on driving while using a mobile phone. However, Cant goes a step further and insists that legislation on smoking in cars is required.

“Legislation would send a clear message that this practice is dangerous and unacceptable. Without that, it will take a lot longer to change individuals’ attitudes and behaviour. We’re concerned about the amount of children who will be damaged in that time.

“Exposure to second-hand smoke in childhood leaves children at a higher risk of many conditions such as asthma, glue ear or even meningitis. It also makes them more vulnerable to respiratory disease in adulthood, such as COPD or lung cancer. I don’t think that’s the sort of legacy we want to leave our children. In terms of health impacts, cost to the NHS and days lost from work, I don’t think we can afford not to legislate.”

However, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, says that a ban on smoking in private vehicles containing children “would set a dangerous precedent because the next step is a ban on smoking in the home” and he believes legislation would be “an unnecessary and heavy-handed response”.

Looking ahead to a new strategy, he argues that the concept of a smoke-free Scotland is “disturbingly illiberal and intolerant”.

He continues: “To reduce smoking rates to single figures, for example, can only be achieved through legislation that will seriously intrude on people’s lifestyle and private space.”

Tobacco is a legal product and those adults who choose to smoke deserve “far greater consideration” from politicians, he argues.

“Sadly, the state sponsored health lobby never knows when to stop. The same tactics that are being used to tackle smoking are now being used to target alcohol, fizzy drinks and fast food.

“When will they get it into their heads that people have a right to make informed choices about smoking, eating and drinking without being bullied, coerced or patronised?

“Life is not risk free and people should be free to take risks, within reason, without undue interference from politicians and unelected mandarins in Holyrood or elsewhere.”

And yet through its lengthy fight to fend off legal challenges to its Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act, the Scottish Government has demonstrated its determination to stamp out smoking in Scotland and earlier this month it was able to announce that Scotland’s long-awaited ban on the open display of tobacco products and selfservice tobacco vending machines will finally be introduced on 29 April.

Duffy says she is delighted that the measures have survived successive legal challenges and commends Matheson for taking a strong stance on point of sale legislation. While Scotland has lagged behind other countries in terms of the time it has taken to introduce these measures because of the legal challenges, Duffy says that as a result of Matheson refusing to compromise, the permitted display area in Scotland will be around a tenth of the size of the permitted display area in England and Wales.

She adds: “I think there probably hasn’t been enough awareness of that, that our public health minister maintained the intention and the spirit of the legislation. I think Westminster compromised in the face of retail lobbying motivated by tobacco industry scaremongering.

“Our public health minister stayed strong on the regulations and maintained the smaller permitted display area in order to keep the intention and the spirit of these measures and I think he is to be commended for that.”

Katie Mackintosh Katie Mackintosh

Katie is Holyrood magazine's Health Correspondent and has been with the magazine since 2005. She has an MA in Sociology with Gender from Edinburgh University and a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Napier University. Katie has been named PPA Scotland Feature Writer of the Year three times - in 2008, 2009, and again in 2013. She was also shortlisted for magazine writer of the year at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. An Aberdonian by birth but a Glaswegian by nature, she now lives in Fife with her husband and young...


  1. Michael J. McFadden

    40 “young people” a day? Would Ms. Duffy care to define what she means by “young people”? I was over at the Scene Smoking (anti smoking in movies) site earlier this morning and found they have a big warning sticker on the bottom of every page announcing that “Smoking kills 340 young people a day.”

    Is “young people” the new code word to use when you’re actually citing numbers you might have to defend, while at the same time using the more emotive words “child/children” the rest of the time (used nine times in this article) so the two become properly confused? Do “young people” include 29 year olds? 24 year olds? 20 year olds? I didn’t see a source cited for proper checking… does one exist?

    I also wonder about some of the other claims being made. The largest international case/control study on lung cancer and childhood exposure to ETS that I’m aware of (the 1998 WHO Bofetta study) actually concluded that exposed children got 22% *LESS* lung cancer in later life than non-exposed matched children. Check the results of the 25 or so childhood studies summarized in detail at:


    and I believe you’ll find only ONE that gave a statistically signficant positive link, and one that gave a statistically significant negative link. Not quite the definitive statement made in this article. I also find it disturbing the way Ms. Duffy confuses 24 hour and every-day full-day exposures to the much shorter occasional exposures in cars. Does it hurt your child to visit horses in a barn as a treat? It would certainly hurt them if they had to breathe in the dusty barn air all day long every day of their young lives. There’s a difference there that the Antismokers love to ignore… just as they’d ignore being trapped in a barn with doors closed all day versus a big airy barn (similar to the smoke levels they talk about in closed up parked cars versus cars with a couple of windows open driving down a street.)

    There are lots of tricks and lies being used out there to promote the antismoking agenda. Google “V.Gen5H” and read “The Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” to see a few more of them.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  2. Michael J. McFadden

    Ahhh! The mystery has been unraveled, and yes indeed, it’s another one of their lies. The 340 figure refers to the number of young people killed every day by SEEING people smoke in movies!

    See: http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/10/anti-smoking-group-claims-that-340.html

    and you’ll find that the claim was being made five and a half years ago and seems to be based upon a number developed by an antismokling mechanical engineer based in California in a 2003 article in the Lancet that’s now hidden behind a $30 paywall.

    Yep, back TEN years ago, Stanton Glantz was claiming that exactly 1,070 “kids” a day were being doomed to a lifetime of smoking addiction (which none would ever give up apparently) with 340 of them dying every day from it, BECAUSE they saw someone smoke in a movie.

    Despite ten years having gone by, and untold millions of dollars wasted in the “Smoke Free Films” projects by Glantz et al, the SAME number of “children” are dying every day from seeing these deadly scenes. (I put “children” in quotes since about half of the computer/Glantz/theorized/fantasy deaths won’t take place until they’re 70 or 80 or 90 years old.)

    Of course, even if these crazy lies had any validity in the first place, the only way they’d come true would be if we instantly stopped ALL medical research for the next three generations AND all developments like e-cigarettes were outlawed that might reduce the harm or smoking AND all antismoking funding was suddenly stopped so that none of those kids would ever hear that smoking was bad and would therefore never quit.

    Somehow I doubt that ANY of those things will happen … although it would certainly be nice for all of us if the wackos DID get their funding “suddenly stopped.” Something tells me that without the money being poured into their pockets most of them would run off to find other “causes” to terrify people with: it’s in their nature — the money grubbing that is.

    The 340 smoky movie deaths has NOTHING to do with smoking in cars… except that both campaigns are, as usual, based on lies.

    - MJM

  3. Bill Gibson

    Here is an interesting insight into the activities of a UK Government Department regarding the Plain Packaging Consultation. The Tobacco Control Activists are clearly out of control….


  4. Eddie Douthwaite

    Whilst the Members of the Scottish Parliament bow down to the gods of Tobacco Control it would seem that this deference does not apply when money is involved.

    The SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT PENSION SCHEME, dare I say it, is a “Gold Leafed” scheme with investments in British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.

    Scroll down to PAGE 6 of the link below.


    Hypocrits is the word which springs to mind.

  5. Bill Gibson

    Sheila Duffy points out that the current strategy, A Breath of Fresh Air for Scotland, has been “highly successful”. Now here is the proof that once more this is a lie, by way of Scottish Government figures in graphic form


    On the 12th June 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) part of the World Health Organisation. classified diesel exhaust emissions as a Class 1 carcinogen and claimed it to be more dangerous than second hand cigarette smoke.

    Further proof that ASH Scotland has a long way to go before they can claim any truthful success is found within this news item as the greatest danger to human health is ambient air.


  6. Edward Harkins

    Is there is a set of responses here that has the air of a lobby at work. And why the need for the language? e.g. ‘Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains’ and ‘crazy lies’ and ‘wackos’ and ‘Tobacco Control Activists’

  7. Eddie Douthwaite

    The mention of a Cross Party Group and ASH Scotland in this article raises the question of the process of democracy within the Scottish Parliament.

    “At short notice, most groups pulled out of the event on the assurance that the Executive would soon be introducing more comprehensive measures (interview, 2005). From that point, groups such as ASH Scotland and the BMA Scotland were used by the Executive to promote legislative measures during its consultation period.”
    Scroll to Page 12 of link below.


    As ASH Scotland is funded in the main by the Scottish Government the term “Scottish Government lobbying the Scottish Government” seems to be the case.

    On the subject of Tobacco Control influence in the Scottish Parliament and it’s Committees
    the treatment of Petition PE 01451 by the Health & Sport Committee is an example of arrogance, ineptitude and lack of judgement. The evidence in support of the petition was not even considered or allowed to be presented.

    See Page 32


    The Scottish Parliamentary system must be changed if there is any hope of democratic rule.

    • Michael J. McFadden

      Edward, “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains” is the title of my book. The first fifty pages of the book examine the psychology and motivations of Antismokers, breaking them down into nine separate groupings. The next 300+ pages looks largely at the various psychological “tricks” that are used to promote smoking ban and taxes.

      Thus the title. I don’t see anything particularly offensive about it: I doubt anyone thinks it’s a cookbook.

      - MJM

    • chris

      Maybe they’re taking a page from the Tobacco Control playbook?

  8. Bill Gibson

    Political and legal research has revealed that the Scottish Government, its Public Funded NGOs’ and “Charity” Pressure Groups is loaded with Common Purpose with a single aim of controlling the lives from the cradle to the grave of this once proud nation.

    If the will of the nation is to be Independent from the rest of the UK nations, then as a part of the promised Constitution for Scotland must be the legal recognition and implementation of Private Property Rights.

    A short video explains http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwIUfLttd0A

  9. Michael J. McFadden

    I think Freedom 2 Choose (Scotland) missed an opportunity in presenting their petition. They offered written results of eight years of research to back up their contention that ventilation systems today offer a reasonable alternative to smoking bans. I seriously doubt that the committee members examined that evidence, either in its written form or on the DVDs.

    F2C(Scotland) should have inserted a “prize” of a hundred pounds sterling to the first MP who’d voted in favor of the ban and was on the committee, to have found the offer of the prize hidden within the materials they were supposed to have examined.

    Something tells me they’d still have their money safely in their pockets. The consideration of the petition was a disgrace.

    - MJM

  10. Bill Gibson

    As an economist, maybe Edward Harkins would run his eye over this article that demonstrated how much deception goes on in the name of health and Tobacco Control Advocacy (I choose my words with care)


    The same story line but a different author


    The rest is history but the deception continues unabaited.

  11. Eddie Douthwaite

    Can Scotland afford to spend £49.2 MILLION on Tobacco Control.

    Table 7.03: More Detailed Spending Plans (Level 3)
    Level 3 2011-12 Budget £m 2012-13 Draft Budget £m 2013-14 Plans £m 2014-15 Plans £m

    Tobacco Control 12.3 12.3 12.3 12.3


  12. Bill Gibson

    Denmark (the Happiest Nation in the EU) has rejected the EU Tobacco Products Directive, but we are all aware that the Scottish politicians have hidden agenda in controlling the nation and will bow to the pressures of ASH Scotland, CRUK and the BHF all of which receive substancial funding by way of the Public Purse.


  13. Bill Gibson

    A highly amusing account of the EU Tobacco Products Directive Conference and outlines all that Willie Rennie MSP and Shiela Duffy, ASH Scotland promote namely Lies, Lies and more Lies


  14. Bill Gibson

    A final post from me, as the subject of Smoking in Cars has been mentioned in the main story I thought that readers should review this article


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