NO-ONE could accuse the Scottish Government of lacking ambition.
They have set themselves the target of making Scotland a smoke-free country. And who could deny that the prospect is attractive? The potential health benefits – not to mention the impact on the finances of erstwhile tobacco addicts – would be immeasurable.
Scotland, of course, has form in this department. In 2006, with Jack McConnell as first minister, it became the first country in the UK to ban smoking in public places and despite initial scepticism the policy has been a remarkable success. A Glasgow University study found that within three years of the ban coming into force, there was a 15% reduction in the number of children with asthma being admitted to hospital. A 10% drop in premature births has also been linked to the ruling. Meanwhile, bar workers are no longer forced to breathe unhealthy air, and even most smokers now admit the benefits of cleaner public spaces.
To date, however, the policy has not led to huge numbers of people giving up smoking, with a drop of just in excess of 2% since 2006. We are reminded, too, that an audacious plan hatched in 1983 to make Glasgow smoke-free by the millennium came to naught. If the Government seriously wants to make nicotine a drug of the past, it will need to come up with an extremely imaginative and persuasive strategy.
There is nothing wrong with ambition, however, and since smoking contributes greatly to Scotland's poor health record we await with interest news of the detailed measures designed to make us stub it out, once and for all.
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