New age of sale law could see 820,000 fewer cigarettes smoked per day in Scotland

Cancer Research analysis shows the potential impact of the proposed new legislation on reducing smoking rates.

Tobacco sale ban for those born after 2009 could see 820,000 fewer cigarettes smoked per day in Scotland iStock

Up to 820,000 fewer cigarettes could be smoked each day in Scotland by 2040 if new laws are passed to increase the age of sale of tobacco, research indicates.

The analysis by Cancer Research UK has been published to show the potential impact of the proposed new legislation on reducing smoking rates.

The new Tobacco and Vapes Bill seeks to make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after January 1, 2009. This would mean that children turning 15 this year will never legally be able to be sold cigarettes.

Analysis from the charity estimates tobacco kills one person every 40 minutes.

The Bill is currently making its way through the Westminster legislative process. To become law in Scotland, MSPs also need to scrutinise the Bill and approve it via a vote in the Scottish Parliament.

Cancer Research UK is urging politicians in Scotland to support the Bill and vote for its implementation as soon as possible.

Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “This legislation is life-saving in that it will help protect future generations in Scotland from the significant harm caused by tobacco.

“By voting in favour of the age of sale legislation, MSPs will be bringing us one step closer towards the first ever smoke-free generation.

“Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in Scotland and its impact devastates families. Now is the time for MSPs to take action to end cancers caused by smoking.

“Most people who smoke start when they are young, so increasing the age people can legally be sold tobacco products could help people from ever taking up a deadly addiction in the first place.”

The new Cancer Research UK analysis shows that under the UK Government’s best-case modelling of the impact of the age of sale legislation, 820,000 fewer cigarettes per day would be smoked in Scotland by 2040.

Smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer in Scotland, causing around 5,700 cases of the disease each year in Scotland.

Currently more than 683,000 people smoke in Scotland, an estimated 15% of Scotland’s population.

Evidence shows that smoking rates go down with government action, with smoke-filled pubs and workplaces, tobacco advertising and branded packs now consigned to the past.  

The charity says Age of Sale legislation is a “vital next step on the journey to a smoke-free Scotland” and would create a “positive legacy” for its young people.  

Gran with incurable cancer shares ‘deep regret’ over smoking

Louise McGregor, 67, and grandson Bennett age four.  (Louise Martin)

Someone who knows the damage a lifetime of smoking can do is cancer patient Louise McGregor of Leith, Edinburgh.

The grandmother-of-five is about to start chemotherapy for a tumour in her lung. She’s in no doubt that smoking caused the disease which, when found, had already spread to other parts of her body.

Louise, aged 67, said: “I remember the very day when I started smoking. I was 14 years old and lots of the girls I was friends with had started smoking.

“I wasn’t interested at first but one day, for some reason, when I was offered a draw of someone’s cigarette, I decided I’d take it and I liked it.

“Back then everyone was smoking and you just wanted to feel big and be older. I never thought I was going to get addicted to it. I can remember it like it was yesterday actually, taking that first cigarette, and that set me on the road to still be smoking 50 years on.

“I felt grown up with a cigarette in my hand and so I kept smoking. I didn’t smoke very much at first, maybe just four or five a day, and it was only when I started working that I began buying cigarettes.

“Then when I started going out to pubs with friends, the amount I smoked increased. Before I knew it, I was smoking 15 a day.

“That went on until I was admitted to hospital in 2020 with pneumonia.  I was really ill and so I stopped and never started again.”

Louise was diagnosed with non small cell lung cancer in February 2021 after she’d gone to the doctor with pains in her side.

Following 20 radiotherapy sessions, a CT scan showed the treatment had fractured two of Louise’s ribs. The same scan also showed that the cancer wasn’t just in her lung, it had spread to her pancreas and adrenal gland and, because of this, the cancer was incurable.

Louise said: “I feel deep regret about smoking. I didn’t need to take that first cigarette. But I was only a child and so I did.

“The more that’s out there to make young people realise how dangerous and addictive smoking is the better.”

“It was so easy to start smoking back then. You got cigarettes off the ice cream van for a penny, crazy stuff like that.

“I wasn’t making a choice back then. I wasn’t thinking like that. All I wanted to do was be in with my friends because they were smoking. It was just to be part of the crowd and now I have lung cancer caused by smoking.”

Louise added: “There’s no cure, that’s for sure. The chemo is about treating the cancer and giving me a better quality of life, to spend as much time with my children and grandchildren as possible.

“I have another grandchild on the way who I’m looking forward to meeting. And I love volunteering at a local charity shop – I want to keep doing that as long as I possibly can.”

Louise, a retired carer, also lost her husband Ian to lung cancer 13 years ago.

Known to everyone as Mac, he was a 60-a-day smoker before he died.

Louise said: “Even when Mac was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t able to stop smoking. That I find unbelievable really. It shows how addictive it is.

“I think the smoking ban made a big difference to people giving up smoking. It made it less normal and, while people complained about not being able to smoke in bars and restaurants at first, we’ve all adapted to it which is great.

“My hope would be that if these new laws get pushed through then, in time, that will make it harder for children to start smoking in the first place.

“Hopefully for future generations, if they can’t buy the cigarettes, then maybe it won’t cross their mind to smoke in the first place.”

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