The Scottish parliament is being urged to go it alone and ban tobacco advertising after the failure of the Westminster government to bring forward legislation.
A coalition of health professionals and cancer charities has been formed in Scotland to campaign for a ban. They are supporting a private member's bill, which the SNP (Scottish National party) has promised to introduce into the Scottish parliament.
The BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Macmillan Cancer Relief, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland are all part of the coalition. They expressed regret at the lack of action at a UK level but said the opportunity still exists for legislation in Scotland.
Any such move, however, is likely to be resisted by the Scottish Executive. The Scottish health minister, Susan Deacon, strongly supports banning tobacco advertising but said that the most effective way forward is to introduce UK legislation.
The SNP has called on the Westminster government to give an assurance that a bill to ban tobacco advertising will be introduced in the next session of the UK parliament. If such an assurance is not forthcoming, the SNP will proceed with its own bill for a ban in Scotland. The party's health spokeswoman, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Smoking causes 13 500 deaths in Scotland every year. Research shows that a ban on advertising would save more than 300 lives a year. That is why, in the absence of Westminster legislation, it is important to make as much progress in Scotland as possible.”
The SNP's decision to press for Scottish legislation has been welcomed by the coalition. Speaking on behalf of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Professor John Crofton, a world authority on respiratory diseases, said: “There was great disappointment at the shelving of Westminster legislation to ban tobacco advertising, but I am heartened by the initiative shown here in Scotland to make an advertising ban a reality.
“Scottish legislation can go some way to delivering effective measures to cut the number of young people taking up smoking for the first time. Scotland can show the rest of the UK the way ahead in tackling smoking.”
Dr Bill O'Neill, the Scottish secretary of the BMA, said: “The determined actions of the tobacco industry brought about the failure of the European directive on tobacco advertising. Sadly, the commitment given by the Westminster parliament to introduce a ban also appears to have faltered. Politicians of all parties must now unite to bring forward effective legislation through the Scottish parliament.”