Taking action on smoking and health
Today (Friday 26 March) marks 15 years since smoke-free legislation was introduced to Scotland. Together with Stirling University, ASH Scotland reflects on this milestone.
The year following the introduction of smoke-free public places, saw a reduction in child asthma admission by 18% and a reduction of heart attack admissions to hospital by 17%. For key findings from the national evaluation research programme, see:
National evaluation of Scotland's smoke-free legislation | ASH Scotland
In the most recent Scottish Health Survey testing for salivary cotinine in non-smokers, a marker of inhaled nicotine, shows that four out of five non-smokers show no signs of inhaling second-hand smoke compared to about one in five in tests before the smoke-free laws.
On celebrating the 15th anniversary, Dr Sean Semple, of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, said:
“Introduced to Scotland on March 26, 2006, smoke-free legislation has radically improved the health of Scots – transforming our culture to encourage smokers to reduce their tobacco intake or quit smoking altogether, while protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke in indoor public spaces. Ahead of the legislation being introduced, many felt that major change of this kind was extremely difficult to successfully implement – perhaps even unachievable – however, 15 years on, it is important to reflect on how this has quickly become the ‘new normal’.
“A generation of children has grown up having not experienced high levels of second-hand smoke pollution in public spaces, such as public transport and hospitality venues, while the country’s workforce can now enjoy smoke-free working environments – protecting health and ultimately saving lives. Significantly, the success of the legislation is reflected in the most recent data from the Scottish Health Survey which shows that more than four in every five non-smokers have no detectable cotinine – a marker of breathing in nicotine – in their saliva. Back in 2003, that figure was closer to just one in five.
“Working with government, policymakers, charities and partners, including ASH Scotland, researchers at the University of Stirling have played a central role in evaluating the impact of smoke-free legislation
and reporting the health benefits of smoke-free settings over the past 15 years. This work has been incredibly influential in encouraging other countries around the world to adopt similar smoke-free policies.
“We are continuing our world-leading work on tobacco control and our latest studies include exploring topics such as smoke-free prisons, tobacco packaging and how domiciliary care workers are exposed to second-hand smoke when working in people’s homes.”
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of health charity ASH Scotland, said:
“This year marks the 15 year anniversary of Scotland’s smoke-free legislation – a landmark piece of public health policy that made Scotland a world-leader in the fight against the harms caused by tobacco. Since it was introduced, the intended health benefits have been achieved and surpassed, as demonstrated by University of Stirling academics. A new generation has grown up with smoke-free public places as their right and expectation.
“While the success of smoke-free public places reminds us of how far we have come, it is important not to lose sight of how far Scotland still has to go to achieve its ambition of creating a tobacco-free generation by 2034.
“Tobacco remains the biggest cause of preventable ill health and death in Scotland. Smoking rates are stubbornly high in Scotland’s most deprived communities and far too many children continue to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes. If Scotland is to build on its legacy as a world leader in the fight against smoking, we need to ensure tobacco remains a public health priority and that bold and ambitious action is taken to address the challenges we face in reaching the 2034 target.”
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.