BMA Scotland has today published a five-point action plan aimed at tackling teen smoking. Doctors’ leaders are calling on the Scottish Government to implement the plan to support the forthcoming purchase age increase for tobacco sales. The recommendations, including banning tobacco vending machines and prohibiting the sale of ten packs of cigarettes, would help enforce the age increase by reducing the availability of cigarettes to young people. The action plan calls upon the Scottish Government to implement the following measures:
- Tobacco vending machines should be banned. Vending machines are often used by young people to buy cigarettes because there are no age checks in place. The banning of cigarette vending machines would reduce the outlets available to young people and therefore restrict their access to cigarettes.
- Legislation to prohibit the sale of packs of 10 cigarettes should be introduced. Recent data has shown that many underage smokers buy their cigarettes in packs of ten cigarettes. Smaller packs are cheaper and therefore more appealing to younger people. Prohibiting the sale of ten cigarettes is a necessary step to manage the availability of cigarettes to young people.
- A positive licensing scheme, already in place for shops that wish to sell alcohol, should be introduced to support the implementation of the age increase. It is clear that if sellers are not being prosecuted for selling to underage people at the moment then a negative licensing system to enforce the age increase is not a workable solution. Retailers should be encouraged to stop selling to underage children by the introduction of a licence to sell cigarettes, which would be removed for persistent offenders.
- Cigarettes should not be displayed at the point of sale. In order to support the tobacco advertising ban that was introduced in the UK in 2003, the advertisement of tobacco products at point of sale should also be prohibited. Such displays at point of sale normalise tobacco use, especially when the packs are placed next to everyday items.
- Long-term investment in comprehensive and targeted smoking prevention and cessation services. The recommendations outlined above will not solve the problem if implemented in isolation. This range of measures must be introduced and supported by continual investment in smoking prevention and cessation services in order to tackle the attitudes of young people towards smoking.
From 1 October 2007, the Scottish Executive will raise the purchase age of tobacco from 16 to 18.