Politics & Campaigns

Vaping and the Scottish Parliament Election

The Scottish Parliament election takes place on the 6 May and we look at the position the parties are taking on tobacco harm reduction and vaping

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The Scottish Parliament election takes place on the 6 May and Planet of the Vapes looks at the position the parties are taking on tobacco harm reduction and vaping. While most of the discussion centres on the possibility of another independence referendum, politicians need to focus on the importance of electronic cigarettes in achieving the 2034 smoke-free Scotland ambition.

The SNP limits all mention of vaping and tobacco harm reduction to one sentence: “We reaffirm our commitment to the 2034 smoke-free Scotland ambition and will publish a new tobacco strategy.” (1)

But, recently, the SNP’s deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee Emma Harper made a troublingly ignorant comment: “I have concerns that young people think [vaping] is cool and I have concerns that young people would go straight to vaping because of the smells, the taste, those other chemicals in it. We need to remember that vaping has nicotine in it. Nicotine is addictive.”

The Scottish Conservatives use their manifesto (2) to speak about “working with rather than against the UK Government”, promoting “innovation”, and “promoting e-commerce” to restore “our town centres and high streets”.

This falls by the wayside when it comes to vaping as, “we must also tackle Scotland’s stubbornly high smoking rates, which are underpinned by economic inequalities – one in three people smoke in Scotland’s most deprived communities compared to 1 in 10 in the least deprived. Greater action is needed to achieve the 2034 target ... The use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products must be monitored closely and regulated in the same way as cigarettes.

Treating vaping the same as smoking will remove incentives for smokers to switch and quit.

Scottish Labour want to “invest in the Scotland of tomorrow” (3).

They speak about the need to address smoking but fail to make any mention of tobacco harm reduction or vaping: “Further action is needed on reducing smoking. We will ensure better data collection of smoking habits to develop improved coordination of smoking services with a person-centred approach. We will look at the retail density of tobacco outlets in disadvantaged areas, make the tobacco register conditional, increase tobacco-free spaces, support staff training and discourage sponsorship by health harming commodities. We will also expand the ‘incentive to quit’ voucher schemes, which have been successful in targeted areas. We agree with the British Heart Foundation that the new heart disease action plan requires funding commitments to match the rhetoric. This should be focused on preventative action in the community, based on improved data with support from specialist staff.”

Outside of the big three, the promises don’t get any clearer.

The Lib Dems and Alba make no mention of smoking or vaping (4)(5), and the Green Party talks about “targeted smoking cessation programmes” including “communication campaigns, and a ban on smoking around schools, playgrounds and other locations used by children” (6).

The manifestos from rest of the parties vying for seats can be accessed through the BBC website (7).

All told, it is a pitiful showing from all the parties on a matter that could deliver the most dramatic improvement on non-communicable disease deaths. It is a reflection of the influence being exerted by ASH Scotland.

In its recent report, ASH Scotland wrote: “Declining cigarette sales has spurred the tobacco industry to develop ‘next generation products’ – like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products – which could keep people addicted to nicotine and tobacco and attract new users, including young people. These products are not yet subject to the same robust regulation as tobacco and there are growing concerns that these products – which are often marketed as being less risky than smoking – could become a route into smoking for children and young people.

Scotland deserves better from its tobacco controllers and politicians.


  1. SNP Manifesto - https://issuu.com/hinksbrandwise/docs/04_15_snp_manifesto_2021___a4_document?mode=window
  2. The Scottish Conservatives Manifesto - https://www.scottishconservatives.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Digital-Manifesto-Final.pdf
  3. Scottish Labour Manifesto - https://scottishlabour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Scottish-Labours-National-Recovery-Plan.pdf
  4. Lib Dem Manifesto - https://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/manifesto
  5. Alba Manifesto - https://www.albaparty.org/health_and_care
  6. The Green Party Manifesto - https://greens.scot/ourfuture/health
  7. BBC Scotland -  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-56510773
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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