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No smoking signs 2014 2 16x9 

Read the BMA's key policies on tobacco:

  • Introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products
  • Introduce minimum pricing
  • Strengthen nicotine regulation in the UK
  • Initiate a positive licensing scheme to reduce the number of tobacco outlets
  • Continue to reduce tobacco marketing opportunities
  • Limit pro-smoking imagery in entertainment media
  • Support smokers to quit by provided adequately funded, targeted smoking cessation services.


Key areas of work

See more on the key areas of work we have been involved in and our policies on each issue.

Further information

  • Policy and progress

    E-cigarettes and tobacco control in Scotland

    In December 2014, BMA Scotland responded to the Scottish government's 'A consultation on Electronic Cigarettes and Strengthening Tobacco Control in Scotland'.

    In its response, BMA Scotland makes recommendations on:

    • age restriction for e-cigarettes
    • domestic advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes
    • inclusion of e-cigarettes on the Scottish Tobacco Retailer Register
    • the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places
    • smoking in cars carrying children aged under 18.

    Read the full BMA Scotland consultation response


    • October 2013: European Parliament passes a draft law to make tobacco products less attractive to young people
    • September 2013: Scottish government makes commitment to consult on standardised packaging before introducing a bill in the next parliamentary term
    • July 2013: Scottish government announces its intention to introduce legislation on standardised packaging to Scottish Parliament
    • April 2013: Tobacco displays in large stores and cigarette vending machines banned in Scotland
    • April 2012: UK-wide consultation on the use of plain packaging for tobacco products
    • April 2012: Tobacco displays in large stores banned in England
    • March 2013: Scotland sets out a five year action plan to tackle smoking, including many BMA-backed measures
      Read about Scotland's five year action plan
    • March 2012: Cigarette vending machines banned in Northern Ireland
    • February 2012: Cigarette vending machines banned in Wales
    • October 2011: Cigarette vending machines banned in England

    The ban on smoking in public places took place in Scotland in 2006 and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.

    Steps are also being taken across the four UK nations to curtail tobacco displays and remove advertising from packaging.

    In 2010, the Department of health launched a new tobacco control strategy, aiming to halve the number of UK smokers by 2020.


    Tobacco Products Directive

    In February 2014 the European Parliament approved the Tobacco Products Directive, aiming to make smoking less appealing to young people. Measures include putting health warnings on two thirds of the pack, front and back; banning small packs and some flavours; and tighter controls on the sale of e-cigarettes.

    The rules will now need to be approved by the European Council before they enter into force.

    Find out more about the Tobacco Products Directive

  • Smoking statistics

    Smoking is becoming less widespread, but it remains a leading cause of death and disease in the UK.

    NHS costs are estimated at £2.7 billion each year, with costs to the wider UK economy of around £2.5bn in sick leave and lost productivity.

    Recent statistics suggest:


    • Approximately 21% of adults smoke, including a slightly higher percentage of men than women
    • Over 81,400 deaths each year in those aged 35 years and over are caused by smoking – 18% of deaths in the age group
    • An estimated 461,700 hospital admissions for people aged 35 years and older were estimated to be attributable to smoking.


    Northern Ireland

    • Around 24% of people smoke
    • Estimates suggest more than 2,300 people a year die from tobacco-related illness in Northern Ireland
    • Nearly 16,700 people are believed to be admitted to hospital for smoking-related illnesses each year.



    • Around 24% of people smoke in Scotland
    • Around 13,500 deaths – some 24% of all deaths in Scotland - are caused by smoking each year
    • Smoking-associated diseases costs the Scottish healthcare system an estimated £271m each year, according to calculations by the charity Action on Smoking on Health in Scotland.



    • Around 23% of people in Wales smoke
    • Approximately 5,600 premature deaths and nearly 27,700 hospital admissions a year are caused by smoking
    • Estimated smoking costs for NHS Wales are more than £380m a year, accounting for 7% of healthcare expenditure.
  • Other tobacco products

    Tobacco leavesCigarettes are just one of a number of tobacco products available, with others including snuff or snus.

    Smokeless tobacco has been proposed as a lower risk alternative to cigarette smoking and a way to reduce harm. But while the associated risk is lower than when tobacco is smoked, it can still significantly impact on the health of the individual.

    There is also no evidence to suggest that the increase in use of smokeless tobacco products, as a substitute for smoking, that has occurred in other countries, will occur in the UK.

    The BMA's Board of Science stresses in its harm reduction brief, that the regulated use of smokeless tobacco products should not be considered an interim alternative nicotine source to smoked tobacco.