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