Where there's smoke...

Amongst its other claims to fame, Scotland produced one of the earliest prominent anti-smoking campaigners — our very own King James VI was an early opponent of tobacco consumption and smoking:

"A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs"

King James VI & I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604)


Fans of historical fact will note that when King James wrote this he had also become King James I of England and Ireland.  Unfortunately, the king's Scottish subjects didn't listen to him, then or now, and Scots have a higher incidence of smoking than other parts of the United Kingdom:

"In 2003, 26% of British adults aged 16+ smoked cigarettes [...] Smoking rates are higher in Scotland than in the rest of the UK with 31% of Scots smoking"

Cancer Research UK, Lung Cancer Factsheet, January 2005


King James was once dubbed "the wisest fool in Christendom", but his observation about tobacco consumption being "dangerous to the Lungs" is spot on.  Sadly and inevitably, Scotland's smoking habit gives it the highest rate of lung-cancer mortality in any country of the United Kingdom, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Age-standardised mortality rate per 100,000 population for lung cancer in 2003 (Source: Cancer Research UK)

Northern Ireland
United Kingdom


The Scottish population does indeed have higher mortality rates and shorter life expectancies compared to the rest of the United Kingdom.  However, as we showed in an earlier blog post, what at first appears to be geographic variation can in large part be explained by a different socio-economic mix.




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Stephen Richards
Stephen Richards is the Managing Director of Longevitas