No serious commentator will deny that tobacco is a major blight on Scotland's public health.
Despite recent successes in lowering the prevalence of smoking, tobacco is still implicated in one out of every four death. Smoking-related deaths are rarely quick and painless, and have a massive impact on the families and communities left to grieve. To understand the difficulty in dislodging tobacco use from our society. we must noe the highly addictive nature of the substance.
Seventy per cent of Scottish smokers indicate that they want to quit but struggle to do so. Add the fact that two-thirds of smokers start before they are 18, and we have a clear picture of an addiction of childhood, where a decision made in adolescence goes on to kill half of those who do not, or cannot quit. The tobacco industry relies on the lingering attraction tobacco holds for young people to recruit new generations of smokers, and every day roughly 40 young Scots take up smoking.
With limited opportunites for advertising, tobacco packaging now represents the main opportunity for tobacco companies to promote their products as sophisticated, elegant, slimming, rugged or attractive. And this is reflected in the burgeoning array of cigarette brands, varieties and designs, carefully crafted to give these impressions.
Anyone who has spent much time in the company of teenagers will be aware that they are acutely conscious of brands and marketing, and a large and growing body of evidence now suggests that requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain, unbranded packaging will undermine attempts to graft positive attributes on to smoking, and will make tobacco products less attractive to young people.
We therefore welcome the Westminster government's public consultation on introducing plain packaging for tobacco in the UK. We urge all those who care about the future of our youth to respond to the consultation and to support the measure.
Prof Keith Fox, British Cardiovasular Society and president, ASH Scotland
Dr Neil Dewhurst, Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
Prof Raj Bhopal, University of Edinburgh
Prof Amanda Amos, UKCTCS and University of Edinburgh
Prof Jill Pell, University of Glasgow
Prof Sally Haw, University of Stirling
Posted on Thursday 19th April 2012