It is pleasing to see Communities Secretary Angela Constance pledging to get cash to the poorest Scots. One of the most efficient and effective means of doing so is to reduce the high smoking rates amongst our poorest communities.
Smoking is expensive, involving an average spend of £125 a month on tobacco. Simple arithmetic shows that reducing the smoking rate by 1% would put an extra £12.5 million a year into the pockets of the poorest 20% in Scotland. The reduction in smoking rates reported in last year’s Scottish Household Survey alone (from 39% to 34% in the most deprived SIMD group) would give back to this group a great deal more money than the bedroom tax took away. And this saving will continue year after year.
With surveys consistently reporting that most smokers want to stop there is the added social benefit of supporting people to beat addiction and regain control of their health.
The great majority of this saving is tax. It might be thought that a scheme to transfer significant sums directly from the Treasury coffers in Westminster to the poorest communities in Scotland might be just the thing the Cabinet Secretary had in mind.