Aiming for an adult smoking rate of five per cent or less in roughly a generation is an ambitious but an achievable target. It depends on effectively helping the 69% of adult smokers who say they want to be smoke-free to achieve their ambitions, and preventing children from becoming hooked on tobacco.1
She announced a tobacco control strategy, to be launched by the Scottish Government in the New Year. It will show the way to reduce the smoking rate within twenty years to levels that might allow them to describe Scotland as ‘smoke-free’
This effectively involves Scottish Government making policy decisions that will dissuade adults from making the decision to smoke. However Freedom to Choose (Scotland) has discovered that expenditure on smoking cessation and tobacco control generally does not result in markedly fewer people smoking. Chairman Michael Davidson says, 'The sharpest declines in smoking in the UK occurred between the mid 1960s and 1990,' referring to information from Cancer Research UK.2
He continues, 'It is immediately evident that the rate of decline has slowed in both genders since the middle of the 2000s.' Scottish statistics on the smoking rate since 1999, recorded by the Scottish Household Survey, show a drop of just 4 percentage points between 1999 and 2005 and 3.4 percentage points between 2006 and 2011,3 (compared with about 8 for women and 10 for men between 1975 and 1981).
Meanwhile, expenditure on anti-smoking campaigns and smoking cessation programmes has rocketed. In November Freedom to Choose (Scotland) submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government in order to get a picture of how much money had been spent on tobacco control generally and smoking cessation specifically since 1999.
Michael Davidson says, 'For smoking cessation specifically, we see a sharp rise in money going to local authorities, accounting for most of the smoking cessation expenditure and for the sharpest rise. Local authorities received around £1 million in 1999 and by 2007/8 were receiving around £11 million. That's an eleven-fold increase in this revenue stream alone, and smaller amounts must be added for other projects such as the Tayside "Give it up for baby" incentive scheme.'4
The FOI's figures also included general tobacco control expenditure. Freedom to Choose (Scotland) presents the tobacco control total expenditure and the smoking cessation element in a graph, plotted against smoking cessation figures for the same years.5
'We can see that the decline in the smoking rate has slowed,' continues Michael Davidson, 'in spite of a sharp escalation of tobacco control spending in Scotland (spurting in the middle of the decade in preparation for the smoking ban). We must stress that the smoking cessation expenditure on this graph is included in the total tobacco control expenditure and not additional to it. However Scottish Government total expenditure on tobacco control has increased around 15-fold – and this figure does not even include expenditure by other bodies such as Cancer Research UK6 and Big Lottery funding.
'We conclude: (1) this represents an atrocious waste of public money, particularly in an age of austerity: the proscriptions of tobacco control have resulted in an attack on the hospitality sector and forthcoming restrictions will also inconvenience both smaller and larger shops, when the tobacco display ban is fully enforced. They have also resulted in higher taxes on tobacco products, all of which favours illegal rather than legal tobacco suppliers.
'And (2), if such a huge increase in expenditure has failed to persuade people not to smoke, it is hard to see what new initiatives could possibly make an impact. Certainly Sheila Duffy’s dream of driving the smoking rate down from 25 to 5 per cent of the population in the next twenty years is pure fantasy. History suggests that she should be recommending significantly less tobacco control expenditure.'
 Smoking prevalence and lung cancer incidence, by sex, Great Britain, 1948–2007, available at http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/
 Whether respondent smokes by year, 1999–2011 data, Adults (2011 base: 12,866) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/
 Different smoking cessation funding avenues, 1999–2011
(Figures obtained from FOI request from the Scottish Government, December 2012)
 Figures on tobacco control and smoking cessation expenditure obtained from FOI request from the Scottish Government, December 2012
Number of smokers taken from Scottish Household Survey reports
NOTE TO EDITOR
UK tobacco control and smoking cessation expenditure (from Westminster)