E-cigs in the frame at health summit

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A major national meeting of health chiefs, staged in Cumbernauld, has agreed a robust strategy for dealing with some of Scotland’s biggest health challenges.

The town was chosen as venue for a summit involving 28 of Scotland’s chief officers of environmental health, and their debate set the scene for a wide range of key policy initiatives.

The Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health is a body with influence over Scottish health and safety issues covering everything from smoking in public places to noise nuisance.

A main aim was to address the pressing subject of health inequalities in modern Scotland – and how to tackle the sort of problems faced by communities in towns like Cumbernauld.

Present at the high-powered event were local MSP Jamie Hepburn along with the local authority health chiefs and representatives from NHS Scotland.

And also attending were delegates from the Food Standards Agency, the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Government.

They hammered out a broad agreement on some of the most important public health issues facing the nation today.

This included, for example, giving strong backing to a proposal from the Smith Commission that there should be a new, devolved Scottish Health and Safety Executive.

It was also agreed that environmental health is best delivered by the current model, based within local authorities.

Meanwhile tobacco issues were to the fore, with a decision that any new laws aimed at limiting smoking should be enforced both by the police and environmental health.

And it was agreed that further research is needed into E-cigarettes in order to get a balance between helping to reduce smoking against encouraging young people to start smoking tobacco products.

John Sleith, chairman of the Society, said: “This was an excellent opportunity to review how best environmental health can add value to the greater public health agenda and tackle inequalities.”

Mr Hepburn was speaking both as local MSP for the host town and as Minister for health improvement and mental health.

The other keynote speaker at the event was Ross Finnie, who is chairman elect of Food Standards Scotland.