MINISTERS have come under fire for failing to curb the number of respiratory deaths in Scotland in the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament - despite the introduction of a no smoking ban.

Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland have called for urgent action as data showed that in the last few decades there has actually been a rise in the number such fatalities.

Both groups, who are launching their manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections say "it is clear there is a long way to go to protect and improve lung health in Scotland".

Both raised concerns that the number of respiratory deaths in Scotland "has not decreased at all in the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament".

The latest Registrar General figures showed that despite the introduction of a ban on smoking ban in workplaces and enclosed spaces in 2006 - there were 7,128 respiratory deaths in 2018, 385 more than in 2004, before the ban. In 1974 there were 6,285 such fatalities.

Tobacco smoking has been the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition where the build-up of pus-filled mucus in the lungs results in a painful cough and agonizing breathing difficulties.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2017, tobacco killed 3.3 million users and people exposed to second-hand smoke from lung-related conditions, including 1.5 million people dying from chronic respiratory diseases.

Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland is now calling for candidates to pledge their support to help change Scotland’s "bleak respiratory landscape" in their 2021 manifesto Standing Up for Scotland’s Lungs.

Both believe lung health should be treated as a national priority - while Scotland’s health boards should be handed additional funding in help officials draw up plans for new services.

In July, campaigners warned that respiratory services were already running at capacity before the Covid-19 crisis and faced the added strain of catching up on a backlog of patients – as well as those suffering with coronavirus-related illnesses such as lung scarring or acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Joseph Carter, head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “We’re launching our manifesto on the anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 confirmed in Scotland. Whilst we are pleased to see the progress of vaccinations and the beginnings of a way out of this pandemic, it has highlighted a much larger issue.

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“Lung health in Scotland has not improved in decades. This has directly led to more than 80,000 people having to shield and put their lives on hold due to the dangers posed to them by this respiratory virus. This is the highest of any disease group, demonstrating just how severely at risk the people of Scotland are due to the lack of investment and improvement in respiratory health."


The Asthma UK survey conducted over the summer of 2019, found that basic asthma care in Scotland fell by seven per cent in the previous year - making it the worst nation in the UK.

The study of more than 1400 Scots found that only 36 per cent of Scottish asthma sufferers are receiving the most basic level of asthma care, a decrease of seven per cent in two years.

Respondents with a lower household income were also found to suffer from asthma symptoms more frequently.

Across the UK, twice as many people (24.9 per cent) from the top income band have well controlled asthma, compared to 11.9 per cent of those in the lowest income band in the survey. The lowest income band is the only one where over half (57.4 per cent) of people have uncontrolled asthma.

Whilst access to basic asthma care remains similar across income levels, the quality of asthma reviews is poorer for lower income groups. Without high quality asthma reviews assessing symptoms, inhaler and preventer usage, poorer outcomes are experienced. There are other contributing factors that drive health inequalities for people with asthma.

In deprived areas, air quality can be worse and poor housing increases exposure to mould, cold air and dust triggers. Almost half (48.8 per cent) of Scottish respondents listed air pollution as a trigger.

Mr Carter added: “Scotland needs to act now to protect and improve lung health as we live with and recover from COVID-19. The pandemic has proven to be the single most devastating respiratory virus Scotland has ever seen and this election should be the wakeup call all parties need to significantly invest and improve respiratory health.”

Smoking is the primary preventable cause of ill-health and premature death. Each year, tobacco use is associated with 100,000 smoking-attributable hospital admissions and 9,000 smoking attributable deaths per year in Scotland a - a fifth of all deaths.

The Scottish Government’s Tobacco Control action plan, published in June 2018, set out our five-year target to address the ongoing harms which smoking causes in Scotland.

It has introduced a 2034 tobacco-free target. The aim is to reduce smoking rates to 5% or below by 2034, "creating a generation of young people who do not want to smoke and are protected from the harms of smoking".

But Cancer Research UK has warned that deadline could be missed by up to 16 years in the poorest communities.

Its study last year predicted that more than one in 10 people will still be smoking in 2034.

To achieve the 2034 target, the charity said smoking rates would have to drop almost twice as fast - with smokers needing to fall by 585,000 from the current total.

Meanwhile, 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.

While figure for 2018 showed 19% of all adults still light up, the smoking rate in the most deprived parts of Scotland was almost a third at 32%.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring people with respiratory conditions can access safe, effective and person-centred care, treatment and support.

“Our Respiratory Care Action Plan for Scotland will outline our strategy for improving prevention, diagnosis, care, treatment and support, as well as playing a key role in responding to the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic on respiratory services. We have consulted with senior respiratory clinicians across Scotland and third sector organisations on the plan, which also draws on the experiences of people living with respiratory conditions through the pandemic.

“Once the plan has been published, we will work in with partners across health and social care and the third sector to develop an implementation programme, after which we will determine where funding is required.”