Former Edinburgh MP wants smoking-related diseases tackled once Covid is dealt with

A former city MP says when the Covid pandemic is over, politicians need to show an equal determination in tackling another health problem which claims nearly twice as many lives each year.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 7:00 am
Former Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett

John Barrett, who was Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West from 2001 until 2010, argues smoking-related disease is puts massive pressures on the NHS but is "totally avoidable" and should no longer be accepted as the norm.

And he called for “political leadership” to address the problem once the Covid crisis was past.

Mr Barrett said: "Covid has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths in Scotland and the pressure on the NHS has been huge – but every single year in Scotland roughly twice that many people die through smoking.

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"The latest numbers show 10,000 deaths a year from smoking and about 33,500 hospital admissions – and that's what we will return to as life as normal.

"It's complete madness that on the one hand we're saying let's take pressure off the NHS, yet the killer of twice as many people as Covid here in Scotland is something that is totally avoidable and that people choose to do.

"It's rather ironic that at the moment we watch people hand sanitising and wearing masks in order to go into supermarkets to buy their cigarettes."

As a non-smoker, Mr Barrett confesses it is easy for him to be “sanctimonious” but he believes the cost of smoking-related disease in both lives and NHS resources is so huge that it cannot be ignored.

“Everyone hopes the vaccine means we will soon be heading back to normality, but normality is actually the NHS is under pressure. People say the NHS needs more funding – what the NHS actually needs is people to look after themselves and reduce the demand on the NHS.

“Let's not return to life as normal, let's not say ‘that's fine’.

“We need a political lead on how to tackle this serious health problem, but not one political party is prepared to raise as an issue.

“The Scottish Government should get its act in order and accept there is a bigger killer out there which has been acceptable for many years and that when Covid is dealt with that's what we ought to tackle with the kind of urgency with which we tackled Covid.”

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