10 Years of the Smoking Ban in Scotland

Claire Reid, LGiU Scotland associate, blogs on the effects that the now decade-old smoking ban has had on the health of Scottish people.

A recent LGiU Scotland briefing looked at the impact of the smoking ban in Scotland, ten years on. This briefing focussed on the role that local authorities have had in enforcing the ban and the factors that contributed to its overwhelmingly successful implementation and widespread compliance.

For anyone who has spent time in any of Scotland’s pubs, clubs and restaurants over the past decade, it won’t come as any surprise that, as well as the joy of arriving home at the end of the night without your clothes and hair reeking of smoke, there have been many well-documented health benefits arising from the ban. NHS Health Scotland, together with Scottish Government, funded an extensive evaluation programme which assessed, in great detail, the impact of the ban.

The evaluation programme was made up of a number of different studies and covered social and economic impacts, as well as analysis of routine datasets on, for example, hospital admissions, pregnancy complications, incidence of stroke and levels of smoking cessation.

All of these reports have been published by NHS Health Scotland on their website at http://www.healthscotland.com/scotlands-health/evidence/smokefreelegislation.aspx. This website is well worth a look – the extent of the subjects covered and the overwhelmingly positive impact of the ban which the studies demonstrate makes a powerful contrast to the many negative prophesies made by opponents of the ban prior to its introduction.

Some of the key impacts of the ban identified by the evaluation studies include:

  • an 18.2% per year reduction in hospital admissions for asthma in children (Smoke-Free Legislation and Hospitalizations for Childhood Asthma, Mackay, D, Haw, S, Ayres, JG, Fischbacker, C and Pell, J, ‘New England Journal of Medicine’, 2010; 363: 1139-45)
  • the percentage of women who smoked during pregnancy fell from 23.9% to 18.8% (Impact of Scotland’s Smoke-Free Legislation on Pregnancy Complications, Mackay, D, Nelson, SM, Hawes, S, Pell, March 2012)
  • a 17% reduction in heart attacks (Smoke-free legislation and hospitalisations for acute coronary syndrome, Pell JP, Haw S, Cobbe S, et al. ´New England Journal of Medicine´ 2008; 359: 482-91)

For those working on the ground enforcing smoking and tobacco control legislation and preparing for the upcoming ban on smoking in cars with children, it can be difficult to see the positive impacts from your day-to-day work. In these often challenging times for local councils, even the briefest of glances at these figures should give reassurance to enforcement officers – you’re making a real difference.

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Photo Credit: Tim Albano via Compfight cc