Tobacco (Joined-up Approach)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th October 2019.

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Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the call by ASH Scotland for a joined-up approach to services relating to tobacco and other health-harming substances. (S5O-03662)

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

We welcome the fact that ASH Scotland continues to raise awareness of the fact that smoking remains the single biggest avoidable cause of death in Scotland, killing more than 9,000 people each year. Through the partnership approach that we take to tackling the use of and harm from tobacco in Scotland, that figure continues to decline each year.

In June 2018, we published our public health priorities. They include a joined-up priority of reducing the use of and harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It is the responsibility of health boards and integration authorities to decide how best to join up their services to deliver on that priority. The Scottish Government continues to encourage boards and authorities to take a joined-up approach to services that are aimed at tackling the effects of health-harming substances.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I note my interest in the subject as a British Lung Foundation smoking cessation champion.

According to data in the 2018 Scottish health survey, smoking prevalence rates across Scotland have flatlined, and there has been a concerning increase in the number of smokers in Scotland’s most deprived communities. What new steps are in the respiratory care action plan to increase the number of people quitting smoking?

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

Obviously, Alexander Stewart is aware that the action plan will be published in due course and that it continues to be worked on. However, I will talk about some of the actions that we are taking.

This week, we launched a consultation that paves the way for removing smoking outside hospital buildings. Later this year, we will consult on restricting the advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes. Those are the kinds of actions that we will take.

We are keen that overall smoking trends continue to decline. I am aware of the statistics that Alexander Stewart mentioned, which we need to be mindful of. However, the trend continues to be down, and it is particularly good to see the level of smoking among the youngest remaining at a historic low. We need to see about the slight blips, but it looks like there has been an increase in adult smoking from 18 to 19 per cent. I think that rounding largely accounts for that—18.4 was rounded down and 18.7 was rounded up. We need to keep looking at that, particularly in deprived communities, where there has been an increase in uptake of services for cessation. That is a good thing and we need to keep working on it. I appreciate Alexander Stewart’s continued support on that matter.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

Does the minister share ASH Scotland’s assessment of the link between smoking and health inequality? Does he agree that we need a national strategy that tackles smoking cessation and poverty alleviation?

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

David Stewart makes an important point, which he has made many times before. The Government will not argue against the link between health inequality and poverty and deprivation. We need to continue to work on that. The member will continue to get my support for his interventions in the matter.