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Minimum pricing for tobacco would be 'patronising'

Pressure group Forest says new report is a 'middle-class war on smoking'.

Smoking: Pressure group said price hike would be discriminatory (file pic).
Smoking: Pressure group said price hike would be discriminatory (file pic). © Flickr/ Kari-Söderholm

Increasing the price of tobacco to cut smoking rates would be "patronising and deeply offensive", according to a smokers' pressure group.

Subjecting tobacco products to minimum pricing is one of a raft of proposals put forward in a study by NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy.

Other measures put forward in the report include creating incentives for retailers not to sell tobacco, raising the age for purchase to 21 or establishing a licensing system for shops.

Setting up smoke-free parks and playgrounds or "health cordons" around schools to ban sales of tobacco products could also be considered, the study said.

Simon Clark, director of smokers' pressure group Forest, described the report as part of a "middle-class war on smoking" that was "patronising and deeply offensive".

He said: "Tobacco is a legal product and if adults choose to smoke knowing the risks that choice must be respected.

"Making tobacco even more expensive would discriminate against those who are less well off. It will also fuel illicit trade by encouraging more smokers to buy tobacco illegally.

"Spending money on mass media campaigns or incentivising retailers not to sell tobacco would be gross misuse of public funds."

https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1402246-minimum-pricing-for-alcohol/ | default

The report's co-author Dr Garth Reid, principal public health adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said: "Smoking causes over 10,000 deaths each year and is the biggest cause of preventable death in Scotland.

"But it's where we are born and the conditions in which we live that influence the likelihood whether or not we smoke.

"Findings from this study highlight that changing the price and availability of tobacco could contribute to reducing health inequalities."

The research highlighted that while the percentage of adults who smoke has dropped from 28% in 2003 to 21%, the proportion has remained static since 2013.

Smoking rates remain highest in poorer areas, with 35% of adults in the least well off parts of Scotland smoking compared with 10% in the most affluent.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: "Scotland is making good progress to reduce the harm from smoking - including meeting the target to halve the number of children exposed to second hand smoke at home five years early, banning smoking in cars; new measures on tobacco advertising, packaging and displays, and providing services to help more people to quit smoking.

"We welcome this study and the independent endorsement this provides to our tobacco strategy. Our new tobacco strategy, to publish next year, will support more progress - including targeting smoking rates in communities where people find it most difficult to quit."

The study comes a week after the Scottish Government won a court case allowing it to set a minimum price on alcohol sales.

Ministers said the initiative would help fight Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink".

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