Leith grandmother battling cancer backs new law to ban cigarette sales to future generations

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A grandmother from Leith who is battling lung cancer has welcomed UK Government moves to ban anyone born after January 1, 2009, from buying cigarettes.

Louise McGregor, 67, who is about to start chemotherapy, says she regrets ever starting to smoke and hopes the new law will save younger generations from taking up the habit.

 Louise McGregor and grandson Bennett, aged four.  She started smoking when she was 14 and now has lung cancer, which has spread to other parts of her body.  Picture: Lesley Martin.  Louise McGregor and grandson Bennett, aged four.  She started smoking when she was 14 and now has lung cancer, which has spread to other parts of her body.  Picture: Lesley Martin.
Louise McGregor and grandson Bennett, aged four. She started smoking when she was 14 and now has lung cancer, which has spread to other parts of her body. Picture: Lesley Martin. | Lesley Martin

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The new Tobacco and Vapes Bill seeks to make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after January 1, 2009, which would mean that children turning 15 this year will never legally be able to be sold cigarettes. 

Cancer Research UK says tobacco currently kills one person every 40 minutes in Scotland and the new law could lead to 820,000 fewer cigarettes being smoked each day here by 2040.

The Bill is currently making its way through Westminster. For it to become law in Scotland, MSPs also need to scrutinise the Bill and approve it by a vote in the Scottish Parliament. Cancer Research UK is urging politicians to support the Bill and vote for its implementation as soon as possible.

Ms McGregor, who has five grandchildren, has no doubt that smoking caused her lung cancer which, by the time it was found, had already spread to other parts of her body.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: said: “I remember the very day when I started smoking. I was 14-years-old and lots of the girls I was friends with had started smoking. I wasn’t interested at first but one day, for some reason, when I was offered a draw of someone’s cigarette, I decided I’d take it and I liked it.

“Back then everyone was smoking and you just wanted to feel big and be older. I never thought I was going to get addicted to it. I can remember it like it was yesterday actually, taking that first cigarette, and that set me on the road to still be smoking 50 years on.

“I felt grown up with a cigarette in my hand and so I kept smoking. I didn’t smoke very much at first, maybe just four or five a day, and it was only when I started working that I began buying cigarettes.

“Then when I started going out to pubs with friends, the amount I smoked increased. Before I knew it, I was smoking 15-a-day. That went on until I was admitted to hospital in 2020 with pneumonia.  I was really ill and so I stopped and never started again.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in February 2021 after going to the doctor with pains in her side. Following 20 radiotherapy sessions, a CT scan showed the treatment had fractured two of her ribs. The same scan also showed that the cancer wasn’t just in her lung, it had spread to her pancreas and adrenal gland and, because of this, the cancer was incurable.

Ms McGregor said: “I feel deep regret about smoking. I didn’t need to take that first cigarette. But I was only a child and so I did. The more that’s out there to make young people realise how dangerous and addictive smoking is the better.”

“There’s no cure, that’s for sure. The chemo is about treating the cancer and giving me a better quality of life, to spend as much time with my children and grandchildren as possible. I have another grandchild on the way who I’m looking forward to meeting. And I love volunteering at a local charity shop – I want to keep doing that as long as I possibly can.”

Ms McGregor, a retired carer, also lost her husband Ian to lung cancer 13 years ago. Known to everyone as Mac, he was a 60-a-day smoker before he died.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said she thought the ban on smoking in indoor public places had made a difference to the number of people smoking. “It made it less normal and, while people complained about not being able to smoke in bars and restaurants at first, we’ve all adapted to it which is great.

“My hope would be that if these new laws get pushed through then, in time, that will make it harder for children to start smoking in the first place. Hopefully for future generations, if they can’t buy the cigarettes, then maybe it won’t cross their mind to smoke in the first place.”

Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said the new legislation would be “life-saving”. He said more than 683,000 people currently smoked in Scotland - 15 per cent of the population.

“Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in Scotland and its impact devastates families. Now is the time for MSPs to take action to end cancers caused by smoking.

“Most people who smoke start when they are young, so increasing the age people can legally be sold tobacco products could help people from ever taking up a deadly addiction in the first place.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.