POLL: Councillor questions whether quit tobacco budget is going up in smoke

The work done by the NHS to help people quit tobacco has been called into question by a Shetland South councillor.

Shetland South councillor Allison Duncan.

Allison Duncan told a meeting of the Integration Joint Board (IJB) for health and social care that he feels smokers ought to take the driving seat when it comes to breaking the habit.

“Why should we be paying for this habit?” he asked. “Should it not be down to the individual’s choice whether they want to stop smoking or not?”

Mr Duncan, who is vice-chairman of the board, spoke out on Tuesday morning after reading that the IJB was planning to give £310,000 to NHS Shetland to fund more work on improving public health, including anti-smoking interventions.

Mr Duncan asked what proportion of that budget would be spent on helping people quit cigarettes.

The answer, as revealed by director of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram, was that there was not a specific figure dedicated to any one aspect of the programme.

It was at this point that Mr Duncan expressed his doubts about whether the NHS was getting “value for money” when it came to efforts to reduce smoking.

However, NHS board member Shona Manson said it was “absolutely right” that money should be channelled in that direction. But she added that it would be useful to have a breakdown showing how much was scheduled to be spent on each health improvement area.

Another person who took an opposing stance to Mr Duncan was NHS board member Lisa Ward (substituting on the IJB in Natasha Cornick’s absence).



She said: “It’s important to remember if we’re speaking about individual responsibility [that] you’re far more likely to smoke if you’re in poverty so the idea of putting the cost pressure on individuals is just not going to work.”

Mr Duncan’s vocal scepticism about anti-smoking efforts also took aim at what he sees as the failure to discourage smoking in the first place.

He said: “With regards to smoking I still have my reservations there and I don’t think prevention is working properly in that field.


You’re far more likely to smoke if you’re in poverty so the idea of putting the cost pressure on individuals is just not going to work. LISA WARD


“I still see young people walking the streets smoking. I was in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago and I was really taken aback at the number of young people walking down the street smoking cigarettes.

“The warnings are there on the cigarette packets and a certain proportion of the young [people]… do not seem to be concerned at the warnings given.”

The £310,000 budget allocated to NHS Shetland for health improvement, including anti-smoking measures, was approved.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • December 19th, 2017 17:26

    Smokers put far more tax into the system than they take out in lost productivity at work and costs to the NHS. So while there is definitely health benefits to the individual the less folk smoking the more pressure the NHS is going to come under. Smokers are selflessly taking one for the team where the NHS is concerned and should not be discouraged in their altruistic behaviour. 😉

  • Eric Burgess-Ray

    • December 20th, 2017 16:10

    It is not the cigarettes that are the problem but ‘addiction’ per se. I was a heavy smoker and stopped by useing nicotene gum; I am now addicted to the gum. What about the NHS paying for hypnosis to persuade people away from addiction of anything, whether it be tobacco, drugs or alcohol?

    • Stuart Hannay

      • December 21st, 2017 10:40

      I wonder what Mr Duncan would make of hypnosis on the NHS? It is good to know that you have managed to stop smoking – the gum is definitely less harmful to your physical health.

  • John Groat

    • December 20th, 2017 16:55

    It may be relevant to the discussion on smoking but the lastest statistics have shown the over the past three years the percentage of smokers in the UK has remained static at 24% of the population. How much money has been spent in these three years to little or no effect. Maybe Mr Duncan has a point.

    • Stuart Hannay

      • December 21st, 2017 10:37

      I think it depends on what figures you look at. This suggests tthat rates of smoking are lower:

      “Smoking rates in England have fallen to the lowest on record, Public Health England (PHE) has said. In 2015, 16.9% of adults described themselves as smokers, compared with 19.3% in 2012.Experts say the decrease may be partly thanks to the availability of e-cigarettes. More than a million people said they vaped as they tried to quit and 700,000 used a licensed nicotine replacement product such as patches or gum.Out of the 2.5 million smokers who tried to kick the habit, a fifth were successful.”

      Of course, the figures for Scotland might be different.

  • Stuart Hannay

    • December 21st, 2017 10:48

    Smokers do contribute a lot in tax – and, it’s generally more likely to be folk on lower incomes who smoke. So, like the National Lottery, it’s a further tax on the less well off. However, helping people to stop smoking is not an attack on smokers. Most folk who smoke want to give up as they recognise the benefits of doing so.

  • Michael Garriock

    • December 22nd, 2017 2:53

    Expending resources assisting folk who of their own volition have decided to try and quit and have pro-actively sought assistance is one thing, but it seems a significant level of resources are alse being channeled towards what amounts to pressuring and brow-beating folk in to quitting, and scareing folk off starting, with minimal if any evidence of achieving those stated goals, which could be much better spent elsewhere in these times of ‘challenging budgetary conditions’.

    The warning messages were being heard loud and clear by virtually everyone targeted 40 years ago, and continued to be so right up to present, so upping the anti with the propaganda in recent years was un-necessary, pointless and wasteful.

    It is a self inflicted choice after all. Some smokers, perhaps a number that would surprise many, chose to start, and choose to continue on the basis they’d prefer to enjoy it for 30+ years and drop dead at 50, rather than practice self-denial for 30 years and drop dead at 50 from something else. Then there are the young, and a few of the not so young, who consider themelves invincible. Resources thrown at these are totally wasted, they won’t change.

  • Wayne Conroy

    • December 23rd, 2017 3:29

    So it seems Mr Duncan (and a few people posting on here) have issues with trying to help encourage people with a smoking addiction to stop/seek help. At least smokers pay through the nose for their cigarettes through taxes… more than enough to cover a little for trying to help some with their addiction to smoking! (£12 billion in tax revenue – £9.5 billion in excise duty plus £2.5 billion of Vat – was raised from the sale of tobacco products in 2016.)

    Does he have the same issue with spending money on trying to help with other addictions like alcohol and drugs?

    Trying to improve peoples lives and helping people with their addictions is never a waste of money… I wish the same could be said about acting lessons (sorry… “media training”) for councillors, new buildings that fall apart, the endless “studies” and “outside advisors” that councillors seem to require to make even the simplest of decisions, etc.


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