Taking action on smoking and health
Two out of three people (67 per cent) in Scotland think the Scottish Government should be doing more to improve public health, according to an exclusive new poll[i] commissioned by a coalition of leading charities.
The survey also reveals wide-ranging public support for the introduction of initiatives to tackle the availability, marketing and price and promotion of health harming products such as tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drink.
Among the key findings:
The findings have been released by nine health charities, as part of their ongoing campaign for action to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Scotland. NCDs – which include heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes - are a major cause of ill health, responsible for more than 40,000 deaths each year in Scotland but the coalition suggests as many as 8,000 – or one in five – could be prevented through public health initiatives.
The poll of 1,000 adults in Scotland conducted by YouGov in March this year, also revealed two out of three (67 per cent) were in favour of setting a minimum and maximum price for tobacco, while almost seven in ten (68 per cent) supported health warning labels on alcohol products.
The survey comes as analysis by one of the coalition partners – BHF Scotland – reveals that before the end of this parliamentary term in 2026, the number of obesity-related NCD deaths in Scotland could increase by as much as 10 per cent, with recent trends also suggesting progress made in reducing alcohol-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions is stalling.
The group has also expressed concerns over growing health inequalities, claiming the burden of obesity, tobacco-use and alcohol consumption is higher in the most deprived areas, contributing to a 24-year gap in healthy life expectancy between Scotland’s most and least deprived communities.
David McColgan, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager, BHF Scotland, said: “For years, the Scottish Government has prided itself as being a world leader in public health, but the sad reality is we are being overtaken by other countries. Commitments to introduce new measures to improve public health have been repeatedly delayed and all the while the burden of disease is being felt by the most vulnerable in our communities.
“NCDs cause well over two thirds of all deaths in Scotland but we know thousands of these could be prevented. It is evident that the public believes the Scottish Government should be doing more and supports increased measures to tackle these issues. We have already waited too long and the Scottish Government must now sit up and listen and deliver a comprehensive public health bill urgently.”
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland, said: “The public in Scotland clearly recognise the major threats health harming products pose to the quality and length of people’s lives, especially for those who develop a non-communicable disease, and the need for government to take strong measures such as banning the advertising of all tobacco, nicotine and related products. “With health inequalities continuing to thrive in our most disadvantaged communities and contributing to Scotland’s poorest people dying early, the Scottish Government needs to be bolder and take more determined, targeted and measured action to challenge the normalisation of smoking, and reduce the consumption of health harming products that persists in our society. “It is also vital that investment is made to expand the availability of person-centred community-based services to meet the need for smoking cessation, alcohol treatment and weight management support in communities facing multiple deprivation and the greatest challenges to enjoying a full, healthy life.” Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead, Obesity Action Scotland, said: “We all should have the chance to lead a healthy life, free of preventable disease. This requires us to have access to an affordable healthy diet. Unfortunately, at the moment we are seeing worrying trends in the weight of the population of Scotland as a result of our poor diet.
“The Public Health Bill must create the shift in our diets that is urgently required. We need bold action to tackle the constant advertising and promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt and to improve the out of home sector.”
Laura Mahon, Deputy Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government has made welcome commitments to tackle the high levels of ill-health caused by alcohol and other health-harming products, but these promises must now be turned into action. The public want to see change, and the devastating rise in deaths from alcohol in 2020 shows we cannot afford to wait.
“To make a concrete difference to people’s health we need evidence-based solutions. Introducing restrictions on how and where alcohol can be marketed, alongside increasing the minimum unit price to at least 65p would save and improve lives, particularly for those living in our poorest communities who feel the negative effects most.”
All survey figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,002 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 14th March 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).
The NCD coalition includes the following nine health charities: Alcohol Focus Scotland, ASH Scotland, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, BHF Scotland, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, SHAAP, Stroke Association. The organisations have come together to set out a series of priorities to tackle three of the biggest risk factors that affect people today – tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets – to improve the health of everyone in Scotland.
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.