Young teenage smoking 'at record low level', Ash Scotland report suggests
Smoking among young teenagers in Scotland is at its lowest level since modern surveys began, a study suggests.
The report, by anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland, hailed the drop in 13 and 15-year-old smokers.
The smoking rate among 16 to 24-year-olds also dropped, from 26.5% in 1999 to 22% in 2012, with exposure to second-hand smoke also falling.
Despite the fall, numbers of young smokers in deprived areas remained above the national average.
The report found Scotland has just more than a million adult smokers and praised the work of the NHS and other stop-smoking services for "exceeding performance targets".
The Scottish government has said it is "committed to bold action" to reduce smoking rates and wants the country to be at the forefront of international efforts.
Legislation banning the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products in larger retailers came into force last year and will be rolled out to smaller retailers in April 2015.
It follows the ban on smoking in enclosed public places - such as pubs, restaurants and almost all workplaces - which came into place in 2006.
The government also plans to introduce plain packaging for all cigarettes.
Ash Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: "This report shows we have much to be positive about. Most targets have been met, including large reductions in smoking rates among the key group of 16 to 24-year-olds."
She added: "But our new analysis also highlights areas where we must up our game if we are to be successful in putting smoking out of fashion for the next generation.
"While tobacco use has reduced among all sections of society, the large inequalities in smoking between rich and poor have remained resistant to change."
'Taken a lead'
In deprived areas the smoking rate was 36% compared with about 23% across the country, the report said.
The number of women smoking during pregnancy has fallen to almost 19%, down from 25% in 2001.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco policy, said: "Scotland has taken a lead in the UK by setting an ambition for a smoke-free generation by 2034.
"Ash Scotland's report demonstrates strong public support for key measures to protect children from both tobacco marketing and from second-hand smoke.
"This bodes well for both for saving many young lives from a deadly addiction and putting up strong resistance to the tobacco industry's inevitable attacks."
Scottish Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: "This report shows that Scotland's world-leading policies, such as the smoking ban and legislation to prohibit the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products in shops, are making a real and positive difference.
"However we can't be complacent about a product that still kills 13,000 Scots a year. We know that if we are to build a generation free from tobacco it is necessary to restrict the imagery and design that tobacco companies use to pull in another generation to use these addictive and lethal products.
"That is why the Scottish government will press ahead with plans to introduce plain packaging even if the UK government decides not to proceed."