Intended for healthcare professionals


Ambitious plan for “tobacco-free” Scotland by 2034

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 03 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2100
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

The Scottish government has again positioned itself as the pacesetter in smoking cessation in the United Kingdom, launching a fresh attack on smoking with the aim of making the country virtually “smoke-free” by 2034.

Scotland has become only the third country in the world to set a timetable for reducing smoking to less than 5% of the population. New Zealand and Finland have set targets of 2025 and 2040.

To achieve its aim, Scotland has made a commitment to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes as part of a wider initiative to try to limit the number of young people taking up smoking. At the same time, efforts will be strengthened to support existing smokers to give up, including making all hospital grounds smoke-free by 2015. Targets are also to be set to reduce the exposure of children to secondhand smoke.

The ambitious plans are contained in a new document, Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation,1 and have been widely welcomed by health campaigners.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “We would like to see the ambitions of Scotland spread across the rest of the UK. Smoking is a lethal addiction responsible for at least 14 different types of cancer. Our research shows that around 207 000 under 16s start smoking in the UK every year. It’s time to act. We call on the UK government to put the health of children ahead of the demands of the tobacco industry.”

The introduction of plain packaging is a key element of the strategy, but the Scottish government is waiting for the response of the UK government and the other devolved administrations to a UK consultation on standardised packaging before deciding on how best to proceed.

Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, who recently studied the evidence on standardised packaging, said: “Plain packaging would reduce the appeal of cigarettes, improve the impact of health warnings on packs, and help to reduce misunderstandings about the harmfulness of smoking. As part of the other actions set out in this strategy, plain packaging will have a key role to play in driving down smoking rates in Scotland in the future.”

Scotland was the first nation of the UK to introduce a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and was the first to legislate to end the sale of cigarettes from vending machines and ban tobacco displays in shops and supermarkets.

Charles Saunders, deputy chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: “The [Scottish] government’s ambition for Scotland to be ‘smoke-free’ by 2034 is to be congratulated as a further bold step in the fight against tobacco, and this strategy shows that there is still much more to be done.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2100