Almost half of Scots think Holyrood should encourage cigarette smokers to switch to vapes, a poll has suggested, after a consultation called on advertising rules to be tightened.
According to the new survey for the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, 45% said they tended to agree or strongly agree that the Government should encourage tobacco smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.
Some 23% indicated they did not agree, 23% said they held no opinion either way, and 9% said they did not know.
The poll, by the Diffley Partnership, asked more than 2,000 people for their views on smoking and vaping. Just under half of those surveyed are current or ex-smokers, and about one in five are current or ex-users of e-cigarettes.
John Lee, SGF’s head of policy and public affairs, said that “Scots, both smokers and non-smokers alike, are giving the thumbs up to e-cigarettes”.
“Vapers are telling us that they are turning to e-cigarettes because they are safer, cheaper and more likely to lead to them quitting for good,” he said.
The poll suggested e-cigarette users chose the products because they were cheaper and less harmful, and that 41% of respondents said it helped them move away from cigarettes.
The survey comes in the wake of a Scottish Government consultation which proposes that in-store promotional displays of e-cigarettes should be banned.
It has proposed that “vaping products should be positioned purely as a smoking cessation aid to help those currently smoking tobacco products switch to a less harmful alternative and gradually quit completely”.
The Scottish Government has set the goal of creating a “tobacco-free generation” – with only 5% of the adult population smoking – by 2034.
The poll, released on Monday, suggested that only one in six people, including non-smokers and non-vapers, wanted accessing vapes to be harder.
And, the survey suggested, vapers were increasingly turning to their local stores rather than the internet to buy e-cigarettes.
Mr Lee said: “Our member convenience stores want to play their part in the massive effort needed to switch smokers to vaping and make Scotland smoke free by 2034.
“It is great news that double the number of respondents are buying their e-cigarettes from convenience stories than were doing so a year ago. Not only is buying in one of our member’s stories good for the local economy, it also helps the vaper know what they are buying.
“The Scottish Government wants to make Scotland smoke-free by 2034 – they have the route to achieving that right in front of them.”
Although vaping is considered to be less harmful than smoking, some experts have suggested that it can still lead to heart and lung problems and that the long-term effects of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are currently unknown.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of the health charity Ash Scotland, said: “Many vapes include toxic e-liquids that have not been safety tested for inhalation so, although using vaping products is less dangerous than smoking tobacco which is the most lethal substance on open sale, they are not harmless.”
She said they were “very concerned about a significant rise in children and youths vaping as they are using potentially addictive devices which are brightly coloured, highly flavoured and cheap while their lungs are still growing and can be damaged”.
Ms Duffy continued: “Research indicates that young people experimenting with vapes are at a higher risk of using tobacco products, which is a prospect we should all want our children to avoid.
“To discourage youngsters from experimenting and to protect the long-term health of future generations, Ash Scotland wants the Scottish Government to restrict the advertising and promotion of recreational vaping products.
“The most effective options for people aiming to give up smoking are available for free from pharmacies, GPs, and local Quit Your Way smoking cessation services.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Vape products can be a useful tool for those trying to quit tobacco use. An independent report on our consultation on potentially introducing further restrictions on advertising and promoting vaping products will be published this summer.
“This will be used to inform future policy decisions.”
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