British Heart Foundation Scotland’s Ben McKendrick takes our first guest bloggers spot to talk about interesting times for tobacco control in No Smoking day’s 30th year.
No Smoking Day (NSD) takes place on 13th March. This year is the 30th year of NSD, and the second since the organisation merged with the BHF. The theme this year is Swap Fags for Swag, and the website features loads of information for smokers on the things they could be buying with the money they currently spend on cigarettes. Fingers crossed these resources can inspire smokers across the country to take the most important step they can take to reduce their risk of developing heart disease – by quitting the habit for good.
Meanwhile, on 30th April, garish displays of tobacco products will, finally, be banned in larger retailers in Scotland and from sale in vending machines. Not before time, either. Repeated legal challenges by big tobacco companies have meant that Scotland is the last part of the UK to implement these laws, which has been hugely frustrating to everyone involved in fighting for them, as well as to the Scottish Government who have had to spend time and scarce resources in the courts to defend them. Congratulations to them for being resolute and determined enough to win that fight.
Finally, and probably most intriguingly, on a date that remains undisclosed, the UK Government, in consultation with the devolved administrations, is expected to announce its decision on standardised tobacco packaging imminently. The consultation on this issue ended well over six months ago, so we really do await this decision with bated breath. Standardised tobacco packaging would reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products to smokers, especially to younger people, enhance the effectiveness of existing health warnings, and stop tobacco companies using the pack to make misleading claims about their products – that is what the evidence says.
This is another measure that the big tobacco companies are fighting tooth and nail to defeat in the UK, despite the clear evidence base. We should be encouraged, though, by the fact that the Australian Government has successfully introduced similar legislation and defeated the tobacco companies in the courts. Here’s hoping that the UK Government and the devolved governments take heart from this and get this legislation on the statute books as soon as possible.
Ben McKendrick, British Heart Foundation Scotland