Fife Matters: Slight rise in smoking should be cause for concern

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It’s been said there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Sometimes though, you have to sit up and take notice of the third option and one set of numbers that emerged in the past week stopped me in my tracks.

The number of smokers in Fife rose by 0.3% in the past year, the first increase of its kind in a long time.

Number of smokers increases across Tayside and Fife as Perth and Kinross sees biggest rise in Scotland

The percentage points may be low, but when you consider the lengths the powers-that-be have gone to in the quest for a smoke-free generation, any uptake in the figures is a worrying sign.

Having grown up with parents and grandparents who smoked, and grown accustomed to pubs and clubs which always had that haze about them prior to the smoking ban, I believed society had turned the corner.

Like it or loathe it, the smoking ban forced people to think about whether they wanted that cigarette enough to go outside and stand in the cold and led many people to cut down or cut it out completely.

Banning tobacco advertising in 2002 and raising the age of purchase from 16 to 18 in 2007 helped.

Add to that the sheer expense  of keeping up the habit, and the rise of e-cigarettes and vaping, and it’s no surprise that smoking is now verging on being socially unacceptable.

Or so I thought.

The new figures show health boards and other agencies cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and the rest of us cannot be allowed to overlook the harm that smoking causes.

There are many complicated reasons for people taking up smoking, but once they start they soon find nicotine is addictive, making it difficult for them to stop even when they want to.

And while it remains the UK’s leading preventable cause of cancer, the focus has to be on preventing people from staring smoking in the first place.

Back in my school days, lighting up was considered a rite of passage into adulthood.

Hopefully any glamour still associated with the practice has gone and future generations will have the good sense not to make the same mistakes we did.