Health campaigners have warned that Scotland is on track to miss the “tobacco-free” target by 16 years if current smoking trends continue.

The Scottish Government pledged to create a “tobacco-free generation” by 2034, with no more than five per cent of adults smoking by that date.

However, a forecast published today by Cancer Research UK predicts that more than one in 10 Scots will still be smoking by 2034 and the smoke-free milestone will not be achieved until after 2050.

The charity said much more needs to be done to stamp out the habit.

CASE STUDY: 'When I found out I had cancer I knew I had smoked my last cigarette' 

Their projections suggest that the smoking rate in Scotland will have to fall nearly twice as fast as projected if the 2034 target is to be met, equivalent to 585,000 fewer smokers in Scotland than there are now.

For those who live in Scotland’s most deprived communities, the target is likely to be reached even later.

While the most affluent fifth of Scotland’s population are expected to have quit cigarettes by 2034, by 2050 more than one in 10 of those living in Scotland poorest areas will still be smoking.

The charity believes the 2034 target will only be met if the Scottish Government takes a lead to ensure all smokers who visit hospital are routinely offered support to quit.

Other measures, including greater awareness, promotion and access to free Quit Your Way smoking cessation services, will also be vital.

Marion O’Neill, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “This new analysis suggests Scotland is not on track to achieve its 2034 smoke-free target which is a concern.

“Indeed, if the Scottish Government is to achieve this welcome ambition and improve the nation’s health, much more needs to be done to accelerate progress.

“Smoking has a catastrophic impact on health.

“It’s enormously addictive and difficult to quit, so more needs to be done to ensure people know about the support available to give up.”

READ MORE: QEUH oversight chief to step down in summer 

Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer in Scotland, with some 4,100 people dying from lung cancer every year.

Ms O’Neill added: “Smoking also remains more common within

poorer communities and the Scottish Government must take the lead to ensure that everyone, including those from disadvantaged groups, know about the help available.”

She said smokers quitting with the help of support services are about three times more likely to be successful than those who go “cold turkey”.

Ms O’Neill added: “We also know that offering support to smokers who visit hospital works.

“Ensuring this is offered routinely will be vital if Scotland is to become smoke-free.”

The charity’s research comes after the number of smokers increased for the first time in seven years, rising from 806,817 in 2017/18 to 808,829 in 2018/19.

The smoking rate for the most deprived parts of Scotland was 32%, compared to 19% for the national average.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the recommendations made by Cancer Research UK which endorses many of our current plans, such as evaluating the tobacco control action plan and providing ongoing smoking cessation support across all healthcare settings.

“Smoking prevalence in Scotland continues to fall and we remain determined to create a tobacco-free generation by 2034.”