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by Gemma Fraser
25 February 2020
Scotland could miss tobacco-free target by more than 16 years

Image credit: PA images

Scotland could miss tobacco-free target by more than 16 years

The deadline for achieving a 'tobacco-free' Scotland could be missed by more than 16 years if current smoking trends continue, according to new research.

The Scottish Government has committed to working towards a target to reduce the adult smoking rate to a maximum of five per cent by 2034.

However, if current trends continue, the Scottish Government will not hit its ‘tobacco free generation’ target until after 2050, according to the latest Cancer Research UK forecast.

The new projections suggest 12 per cent of adults will still smoke by that deadline if there is no change in the expected decline in smoking rates.

This means the smoking rate in Scotland will have to drop almost twice as fast as projected if the 2034 target is to be met, equating to 585,000 fewer smokers in 2034 compared with today.

For those who live in Scotland’s most deprived communities, the target is likely to be reached even later. Cancer Research UK projections suggest that the richest fifth of Scotland’s population could achieve smoke-free in 2034, but the poorest fifth will have not even crossed the 10 per cent mark by 2050.

The charity believes the 2034 target will only be met if the Scottish Government takes a lead to ensure all smokers who visit hospital are routinely offered support to quit. Other measures, including greater awareness, promotion and access to free Quit Your Way smoking cessation services, will also be vital.

Marion O’Neill, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “This new analysis suggests that Scotland is not on track to achieve its 2034 smoke-free target which is a concern. Indeed, if the Scottish Government is to achieve this welcome ambition and improve the nation’s health, much more needs to be done to accelerate progress.

“Smoking has a catastrophic impact on health. It’s enormously addictive and difficult to quit so more needs to be done to ensure people know about the support available to give up.

“Smoking also remains more common within poorer communities and the Scottish Government must take the lead to ensure that everyone, including those from disadvantaged groups, know about the help available. When people access these services, they are around three-times more likely to be successful than going ‘cold turkey’.

“We also know that offering support to smokers who visit hospital works. Ensuring this is offered routinely will be vital if Scotland is to become smoke free.

“Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing cancer compared with ongoing smoking. The benefits of a ‘tobacco free generation’ to public health and NHS budgets are unequivocal.”

Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer in Scotland.

Currently, smoking rates and lung cancer death rates in Scotland remain higher than any other UK nation and lung cancer kills more people here than any other type of the disease.

The most recent Scottish Health Survey shows 19 per cent of adults in Scotland smoke cigarettes, which equates to more than 843,000 smokers.

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