Page last updated at 00:54 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Crackdown on cigarette machines

The legal age for buying cigarettes in Scotland was raised last year

The Scottish Government is to crack down on the use of cigarette vending machines by youngsters, it has been confirmed.

Legislation to be introduced next year will include further controls on the sale of tobacco from the machines to restrict access by under-18s.

The pledge was made by Shona Robison, the public health minister, in a letter to SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson.

Tobacco manufacturers said there was no need for the machines to be banned.

Mr Gibson has a motion before parliament calling for an outright ban on tobacco vending machines.

He said: "It may be getting more difficult for people under the legal age to buy cigarettes over the counter, but it is still easy to access them by using vending machines.

"With access, there follows temptation and then consumption. That is why a complete ban on these machines is necessary.

"Recent reports of continuing problems with youth smoking make this ban all the more important."

His comments come after a report suggested the number of young people smoking in Scotland has returned to a level last seen nearly 10 years ago.

It claimed that almost a third of people aged between 16-24 are smokers.

Organisations including ASH, the BMA, Asthma UK, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh are contacting all MSPs urging them to back a ban on vending machines.

They have called for the government to "ban tobacco vending machines outright" as part of next year's Public Health Bill.

Ms Robison said in a letter to Mr Gibson there was a "clear need" for further controls on the sale of tobacco from vending machines to restrict access by youngsters.

She stated: "I can confirm that further controls on the sale of tobacco from vending machines will be included in the provisions of the proposed Health (Scotland) Bill which is to be introduced in 2009."

Age verification

The legal age for buying cigarettes in Scotland was raised from 16 to 18 a year ago.

The Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) backed the continued use of tobacco vending machines with age verification access.

A spokesman said: "Access to cigarette vending machines should be controlled in order to prevent sales to children and the National Association of Cigarette Machine Operators (NACMO) Code of Practice on the positioning of machines should be strictly adhered to.

"The TMA believes that vending operators and machine manufacturers need to identify and utilise systems that enable the purchase of tobacco products by adults only."

But Ben McKendrick, policy and public affairs manager at British Heart Foundation Scotland, said an outright ban was crucial to stopping young people smoking.

"Since devolution, Scotland has a proud record on public health measures, most notably with the legislation that made enclosed public places smoke free," he said.

"This is another opportunity for the Scottish Parliament and government to lead the way on tobacco control for the rest of the UK."

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