Council to retain anti-smoking official for sake of children

The council is to continue employing someone to clamp down on local shops that sell cigarettes to children. The job, which is currently vacant, is being continued at a cost of £20,000 despite the current big push to cut staff costs. Some councillors reckoned the work should just have been taken on by existing trading standards officials.

The health improvement official goes into schools to provide some education about smoking and to recruit and train child volunteers to go into shops and try to buy tobacco products. The post started in 2009 after the government provided the funding, which the council still gets but can spend elsewhere if it chooses. For the first year the job was also part-funded with £8,000 from NHS Shetland but it then stopped contributing.

The infrastructure committee eventually agreed today to continue it for another temporary period as a post reduced to three-quarters full-time, saving nearly £7,000 a year, until the whole infrastructure services department has undergone a review. It will still require the local authority to spend £20,700 of its allocation from the government for this coming financial year.

Councillors were split over the issue. Laura Baisley felt in the current climate the extra job was a luxury when it was already part of trading standards officials’ job to stop tobacco products being sold to children. Alastair Cooper wondered what the existing staff members were doing with their time that was more important.

They lost out by 10 votes to five to Betty Fullerton, the former NHS Shetland chairwoman, who said the council would be abdicating its responsibility if it did not do everything it could to warn young people that smoking would kill them.

She was disappointed NHS Shetland had pulled out, leaving the council to fund the shortfall, and called for talks to find out why.

Frank Robertson was worried about figures which showed lung cancer rates were increasing among women while dropping in men. He said: “We need to get the message through and the message is: Smoking kills.”

Jim Henry had watched a TV programme about bootleg tobacco and cigarettes which he said were 30-times as poisonous as genuine branded products and could already be bought in Shetland.

The council’s new political leader Josie Simpson said he would not have been here today if he had continued his 60-a-day habit. He believed more should be put into educating secondary children about smoking before they get the habit.


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