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Agenda: Ban on e-cigarettes at 2014 Games part of plan to stub out smoking

In July the Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow and will be smoke-free.

The restriction will include e-cigarettes. Many other organisations have also taken steps to remove the use of e-cigarettes indoors.

I welcome this move. However, there will be some who, having used these devices to help them quit tobacco, will wonder why I see these restrictions as a cause for celebration.

The starting point has to be the vision outlined in the Scottish Government's 2013 tobacco control strategy, Creating a Tobacco Free Generation. It sets out our bold ambition to reduce smoking rates in Scotland to less than 5% by 2034. We should all be proud of this ambition to create a Scotland for our children largely devoid of tobacco use.

It is a stark and worrying fact that 13,000 Scots die each year from smoking. Our strategy aims to substantially reduce that figure by helping people quit and creating an environment that supports young people to choose not to take up this addictive and deadly product.

That is why we are unapologetic about measures to keep children protected from behaviours that may make smoking seem normal. E-cigarettes might potentially help many people smoke fewer cigarettes, or even stop altogether. While e-cigarettes aren't proven to be safe, evidence suggests they are almost certain to be less harmful than tobacco.

On the other hand, these devices could also re-normalise smoking. They are addictive because they contain nicotine. Promotional activity could increase their appeal to young people.

The tobacco industry is investing heavily in e-cigarette companies. I am suspicious of this. There is too much history to believe claims that such diversification is motivated by new-found philanthropy or a genuine belief in harm reduction.

It speaks volumes that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says it does not support the sale or marketing of e-cigarettes in pharmacies. I agree we should stand against promotions, advertising and sponsorship deals that feed nicotine addiction, especially in contexts attractive to young people. This principle will guide our approach.

Protecting young people is at the core of our policies and will guide us as we consider our next steps. We need to ensure e-cigarettes are properly regulated to deliver potential benefits to smokers without promoting smoking behaviours among young people.

Our 2034 target means a young child today should grow up in a Scotland where smoking is not the norm. That is why a strategic approach is the right one, not the collection of compromises injected at short notice into the Children and Families Bill in the UK Parliament.

The case for restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to young people makes sense. We need to work through the practicalities before bringing forward specific plans. But a greater prize to support young people to choose not to smoke is plain packaging for tobacco products.

The bans on tobacco advertising and the display of tobacco products in shops have made huge inroads in tackling the marketing and promotion of this harmful product. But children still see glossy, attractive packs and that should concern us. I'm pleased Scotland has paved the way in the UK on this and am glad the UK Government has now followed our lead. We will work with Westminster on this but are committed to implement this on our own in Scotland if we have to.

The case for smoking in vehicles is another key issue. We will shortly be running a campaign to highlight the risks of second-hand smoke to children in both cars and homes.

We want to evaluate the impact of that campaign to inform any future action. We don't want to deny anyone the choice to smoke but we must minimise harm to children.

There's no single magic bullet, no single law or action that will get us there. But, since we lose 13,000 Scots a year to tobacco, we ought to do whatever we can to make sure fewer and fewer of our young people are pushed into line to take their place.

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