Fewer than a quarter of Scots want restrictions to be brought in on the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products, a new poll has found.
Research for the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) found only 24% of people agreed that access to such products, or information about them, should be restricted.
With almost half those questioned were opposed to this – with 24% saying they “strongly disagreed” and a further 24% who said they “tended to disagree”.
That includes 66% of 16 to-24-year-olds who were opposed to such restrictions.
As the research was released, the SGF said it was time for politicians and public health leaders to join with them to “ensure e-cigarettes are properly positioned to help Scotland meet its smoke-free target”.
The Scottish Government has set the goal of creating a “tobacco-free generation” – with only 5% of the adult population smoking – by 2034.
But Cancer Research UK has already warned that deadline could be missed by up to 16 years in the poorest communities.
The latest research, by the Diffley Partnership, asked more than 2,500 people for their views on smoking and vaping – with just under half of those surveyed being current or ex-smokers, while around one in six are current or former users of e-cigarettes.
Almost two thirds (63%) of those questioned agreed that vaping is “definitely less harmful” than smoking, with only 15% disagreeing with this.
John Lee, head of policy and public affairs for the SGF, said: “Scottish people are expressing their wishes on the future of e-cigarettes, and we want to support them for the good of our public health.”
He added: “Our member convenience stores want to play their part in the massive effort needed to switch smokers to vaping.
“More vapers are getting their information from stores like ours or from specialist vape shops than from their doctor or NHS stop smoking services, which shows the vital role that retail stores can play in helping Scot’s improve their health.
“It’s time for stores, the public health community and the government to join forces to ensure e-cigarettes are properly positioned to help Scotland meet its smoke-free target.”
Dr Lion Shahab, professor of health psychology at University College London, said: “Achieving a ‘smoke-free’ Scotland by 2034 requires a concerted effort by public health bodies as well as civic society. E-cigarettes have an important role to play in achieving this aim.
“There is increasing evidence from high-quality trials and real-world studies that they can help smokers stop, many of whom will have struggled to quit with other means, while conferring only a fraction of the harm from combustible cigarettes.
“In population health terms, e-cigarettes, together with existing smoking cessation support, should therefore be seen as a public good.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Smoking rates were at their lowest ever in 2020 and continuing to decline according to the most recent Scottish Health Survey. We remain committed to, and are confident we will reach, our 2034 target.
“Stopping smoking at any time is one of the best things you can do for your health.
“The Scottish Government recommends that current smokers wishing to quit should access support from the free NHS quit smoking service which has operated through the pandemic.
“We are committed to taking forward a public consultation into the advertising and promotion of Nicotine Vapour Products (NVPs).
“Whilst we consider these an effective tool for some people to quit tobacco products, NVPs should not be used by children, young people or non-smokers as nicotine is highly addictive.”