smoking in scotland report cover image of a stubbed out cigarette

Extra, Extra! – ‘Smoking in Scotland’ Report Release Reply

ASH Scotland just released our report ‘Smoking in Scotland: where are we now?’ to describe where we are with tobacco use in Scotland. We’ve gathered statistics and used these to analyse trends and monitor our progress with smoking reduction targets, building on ASH Scotland’s 2010 report ‘State of the Nation’ to give an up-to-date summary of our achievements as well as the areas that require a redoubling of our efforts.

The report contains an assessment of smoking and tobacco use across a range of topics, including: adult smoking; young people smoking; smoking and inequalities; smoking in different population groups; tobacco sales; and second-hand smoke exposure.

All of the figures, targets, and supporting information can be found in the full report, available from our website.

Smoking Prevalence
Some of the best news in the report is the reduction of young adult (ages 16-24) smoking prevalence to only 22%, which is a historic low. Even better is the fact that this surpasses the original target of 23% by 2012. For young people aged 13-15 in Scotland, the numbers are the lowest since modern surveys began, and we seem on course to achieve targets for 2014.

In terms of adult smokers, progress is steady, but just failed to meet a previous Scottish Government goal of 22% by 2010. However, the 2012 Scottish Household Survey results do tell us that adult smoking prevalence is down to 22.9%, a reduction achieved at a steady pace since the 1999 figure of 30.7%.

smoking in scotland adult smoking

Assessments of cigarette reduction and cessation efforts are another positive outcome, as over the past ten years the daily average of cigarettes smoked by adult smokers in Scotland has reduced by almost two cigarettes per day and NHS stop-smoking services exceeded their 2008/9 – 2010/11 performance targets of helping people to stop smoking by over 5,000 successful quitters – 89, 075 in total!

Inequalities and Specific Population Groups
Challenging health inequalities and poverty is one of our top priorities, and to this effect we want to not only reduce overall smoking rates, but also work towards better supporting poorer communities and marginalised groups across Scotland in order to narrow these gaps. This area is one that requires a lot more focus despite the progress already made.

In the most deprived areas, smoking prevalence was reduced from 45% in 1999 to 36% in 2012; however, in the least deprived areas, smoking prevalence was down to 10%. This disparity can also be seen when focusing on rates of pregnant women who smoke – while the overall prevalence of smoking in pregnancy decreased to less than 20%, there is still a sizeable gap between pregnant women in the most deprived areas and pregnant women in the most advantaged areas.

Positive frontline action has been coming from NHS stop-smoking workers who are on target for effectively helping 48,000 smokers from the most deprived areas quit by the end of March 2014.

While there is limited data on differences in tobacco use in other population groups in Scotland – such as by ethnicity, disability status, religion, and sexual orientation – ‘Smoking in Scotland’ reports on what we know. For example, individuals with a limiting long-term disability are more likely to smoke, and the prevalence of smoking among people with mental health issues remains very high.  Addressing limitations on the data we have about tobacco use amongst these groups is something we’ll keep working on.

Tobacco Sales
The data on tobacco sales in the UK (data on Scotland alone is not available) shows that sales of legal manufactured cigarettes, illicit cigarettes, and illicit rolling tobacco have all been declining in recent years.

tobacco sales

It is important to note that, while there has been a decline in volume of tobacco sold, some of this has been undermined by tobacco companies adjusting their pricing structures to create ultra-low price brands, allowing smokers to ‘downtrade’ and keep smoking. For similar reasons, volumes of legal hand-rolled tobacco increased, largely due to the price difference between hand-rolled and premade cigarettes. But it is not the consumer’s best interest that tobacco companies have in mind with their pricing strategies, it’s their financial bottom line, and their claims about illicit tobacco should fall on deaf ears.

Second-hand Smoke
One of the most important impacts of recent tobacco control legislation, the 2006 smoking ban, is the resulting decrease in exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS).  As well as reducing exposure to SHS in public places over time, in 2012 only 18% of non-smokers in Scotland reported regular exposure to SHS in their own or others’ homes – this is compared to 33% in 1998.

However, there is room for improvement and increased vigilance as data on the number of children exposed to SHS has only recently been collected.  12% of children (equating to about 100,000 across Scotland) reported being exposed to smoke in their home; we need to further reduce the number of children subjected to the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Working Together
Given that there are still roughly 1 million smokers in Scotland (aged 16+), we want to make further inroads into reducing tobacco use. ‘Smoking in Scotland’ reveals that public attitudes in Scotland strongly support measures regulating tobacco and improving the health of everyone.  This is especially relevant given the pending legislative measures relating to standardised (plain) packaging and prohibiting smoking in cars with children present.

Our Chief Executive, Sheila Duffy, commented on the achievements and challenges of ASH Scotland:

“This report shows we have much to be positive about.

“Most targets have been met, including large reductions in smoking rates among the key group of 16 to 24-year-olds. 
“It’s a significant achievement and may be a reflection of the impact of measures such as the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, larger picture warnings on packets and raising the age of sale from 16 to 18. 

“But our new analysis also highlights areas where we must up our game if we are to be successful in putting smoking out of fashion for the next generation. 
“While tobacco use has reduced among all sections of society, the large inequalities in smoking between rich and poor have remained resistant to change. 

“We continue to be very successful in tackling tobacco. But to achieve the vision of a smoke-free Scotland by 2034, as set out in the Scottish Government’s tobacco control strategy, we need to redouble our efforts to tackle a smoking epidemic that continues to claim around 13,000 lives in Scotland each year.”

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