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Rising number of shops selling cigarettes in poorest areas, research shows

A new study has looked at data on all premises licensed to sell tobacco in Scotland between 2013 and 2017.

A fifth of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have had an increase in the provision of tobacco since 2015(Andrew Milligan/PA)
A fifth of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have had an increase in the provision of tobacco since 2015(Andrew Milligan/PA)

The number of cigarette retailers in Scotland’s most deprived areas is on the rise despite public health efforts to cut smoking, a study has found.

Researchers have found the number of shops selling tobacco products in the poorest neighbourhoods has increased since 2015.

It follows an initial drop after a law was introduced in 2013 banning their display in store.

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The display of tobacco products in stores is now banned (John Stillwell/PA)

Young people in the poorest areas are now even more likely to encounter tobacco products than those in more affluent parts, the team said.

Scientists from the universities of Edinburgh, Stirling and St Andrews looked at data on all premises licensed to sell tobacco between 2013 and 2017.

The number of retailers per 10,000 people stood at 19.16 in 2013,  dropping to 16.85 the following year.

The lowest figure was recorded in 2015 (16.47) but the number of retailers  increased again to 16.73 in 2016 and 16.81 in 2017.

Overall, a fifth of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have had an increase in the provision of tobacco since 2015.

Tobacco products remain available on almost every street corner across Scotland - addressing the local supply of tobacco should be the next priority for policymakers in the UK and beyond Professor Jamie Pearce

Researchers also surveyed 5,527 people aged 12-17 in four areas to gauge their exposure to tobacco products.

The team found those in the poorest areas were the most likely to encounter tobacco products in nearby shops or on their journey to school.

Smoking is a factor in one in five deaths in Scotland and the Scottish Government aims to create a “tobacco-free generation” by 2034.

Professor Jamie Pearce from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences said: “The introduction of the point-of-sale legislation in Scotland has been very successful in reducing the visibility of tobacco products across the country.

“However, at the same time we are seeing greater socioeconomic inequalities in visibility and availability.

“Tobacco products remain available on almost every street corner across Scotland – addressing the local supply of tobacco should be the next priority for policymakers in the UK and beyond.”

The study funded by the National Institute for Health Research is published in the journal Tobacco Control.

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