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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 01:07 GMT
Executive 'to raise smoking age'
Girl smoking
The group wants the smoking age to be raised to 18
The Scottish Executive is backing plans to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 16 to 18.

Raising the age for purchasing tobacco products was recommended by an expert group on smoking prevention, which published its report on Wednesday.

The executive's health department said it would now begin preparatory steps to implement the change.

Ministers were considering whether it would be possible to make the change before May's Holyrood election.

Preparatory steps

The power for ministers to raise the age came in the legislation banning smoking in enclosed public places, but requires to be activated through regulation.

An executive spokeswoman said: "The executive welcomes this report and in particular its support for the raising of the tobacco purchasing age.

"This executive will begin the preparatory steps for implementing this recommendation which will, of course, be subject to the outcome of appropriate consultation, especially with young people's organisations including the Scottish Youth Parliament."

The executive-commissioned Smoking Prevention Working Group made 31 recommendations to Health Minister Andy Kerr.

The group, which includes academics and health experts, also wants tough fines for shopkeepers who break the law and a "negative licensing" scheme so shops which repeatedly sell cigarettes to under-age youngsters are barred from selling tobacco products.

More than any other single thing, the cigarette has blighted the health and shortened the lives of people in Scotland for over a century
Working group report

It said smoking should be barred in school grounds.

Colleges and universities should consider how to help youngsters avoid taking up tobacco or other drugs, the report said.

The report, written on behalf of the group by Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, said the recommendations should form the basis of a five-year plan by the executive.

The report quotes 2004 figures which suggest that 5% of boys and 7% of girls are regular smokers at the age of 13.

This rises to 14% and 24% by the age of 15.

"More than any other single thing, the cigarette has blighted the health and shortened the lives of people in Scotland for over a century," the report said.

Dr Laurence Gruer
The report was written by Dr Laurence Gruer

"If the health of people in Scotland is to be improved and inequalities reduced, smoking prevention must be a top priority."

Anti-smoking campaign body Ash Scotland, which was represented on the group, welcomed the findings.

The British Medical Association's Scottish general practitioners committee also supported the recommendations in their entirety.

Smokers' lobby group Forest said it was supporting the age-raising plans and that smoking should be "for adults".

However, Forest spokesman Neil Rafferty added that most of the report's recommendations, including the proposal to ban displays of cigarettes in shops, were gesture politics.

"They're designed to denormalise a product that is entirely legal and stigmatise a significant section of the population under the guise of child protection," he said.

Background to the change in Scottish law

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