What has taking action on smoking and health ever achieved? 4

This year we are celebrating ASH Scotland’s 40th anniversary. But in all this time have we really made a difference?

In 1973 the Scottish Committee of Action on Smoking and Health was set up with the support of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh. To mark our 40th anniversary ASH Scotland (as we are now) is organising a programme of activity to tell the story of the last 40 years and to look ahead at how we can make the next generation free from tobacco.

But there is one question we should be clear on from the start – with all the effort put in over all that time, what difference have we actually made?

The answer to that is nicely illustrated by the graph above, showing an ongoing, and remarkably consistent, decrease in smoking rates in Scotland over the last 40 years. In later posts, and at the various events in our anniversary celebrations, we will say more about the activities, partnerships and successes which form a backdrop and a driver to this decline.

But for now let us focus on one simple fact. The smoking rate in Scotland has halved since 1973 – so thanks to the efforts of all those who share our vision of a healthier Scotland there are around 1 million fewer smokers in Scotland than there were when ASH Scotland was set up.

That’s an extra one million people choosing to dramatically reduce their risk of numerous cancers, heart disease, stroke and lung disease.

That’s one million people (in Scotland alone) who are much less likely to die early after suffering years of ill health.

That’s one million people whose children will be three times less likely to take up smoking themselves.

That’s one million more people living free from a harmful, addictive substance and from the companies who profit from pushing it.

That’s brilliant.



  1. The source of the stats is the General Household Survey, as listed on the graph – don’t think they are available online for this far back but you could send an information request to the Government.

    Cancer Research UK have collated a lot of information going back to 1974 (scroll down for graphs):

    Or the Wald et al book ‘UK Smoking Statistics’ has figures going back to 1905.


  2. Have checked for online links:
    – you can go as far back as 1976 for Scotland with the data in the 1998 General Household Survey report (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/general-household-survey/index.html pg 129, table 8.10),
    – for the other couple of years prior to that, there are values from the ScotPHO report (http://www.scotpho.org.uk/downloads/scotphoreports/scotpho080313_tobaccosmokinginscotland_rep.pdf pg 5) which reports the same data set.

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