The latest annual smoking rate was published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This suggests that the adult smoking rate in Scotland fell to 17.7%, down from 19.1% in last year’s survey.The ONS survey is one of three different estimates of the smoking rate gathered through the year (along with the Scottish Government’s Household Survey and Health Survey). The ONS result tends to be slightly lower than the Scottish Health Survey, which is the official figure used in Scottish Government reporting, but it is the year-on-year trend in each that is telling.
The 1.4% shift reported in this survey equates to 60,000 fewer adults in Scotland who smoke. That’s 60,000 people who have greatly reduced their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia. With the average cost of smoking in Scotland being £1600 a year, this group together will now be saving £100million a year, every year. How many areas of public policy benefit the health, wealth and well-being of citizens to this degree?
The shift in the smoking rate is not happening by accident. Nor is it an unexplained phenomena we passively observe.
In Scotland youth smoking rates have shrunk considerably in recent years as a new generation grow up without exposure to tobacco advertising or promotions, so that fewer new smokers enter the market each year. Meanwhile tobacco itself is being pushed to the margins, with a ban on promotional displays and the cultural shift brought about by smoke-free public places. Tobacco prices in the UK continue to increase above inflation. Specialist stop smoking support is available free to whoever wishes it. Electronic cigarettes are becoming regulated but not out of existence, or even out of public spaces, as in some countries. This survey did not yet include the impact of plain, standardised tobacco packaging.
If this robust approach to tackling tobacco has just delivered such benefits for 60,000 Scots, remember that achieving Scotland’s vision to have a 5% smoking rate by 2034 would deliver this benefit another nine times over.
There is still much to play for.