Rebel without a cigarette

Young people stop smoking.

A smaller number of young people aged between 12 and 17 are now smoking, according to data released by Morgan Stanley.

Here's a graph of its slow but steady decline, via Business Insider:

smoking trends

Morgan Stanley's David Adelman lists the causes:

(i) Reduced social acceptability

(ii) Increased prevalence of aggressive indoor smoking bans

(iii) Higher prices and higher excise taxes

(iv) Some shift to other tobacco products, including moist smokeless tobacco, as well as lower-taxed cigarette alternatives (e.g., “pipe-your-own”)

(v) Ongoing ethnic shifts toward Asian- and Hispanic Americans, who have a far lower smoking prevalence (as well as substantially lower per capita cigarette consumption among those who smoke)

(vi) The multi-year substantial and continuing decline in youth smoking prevalence. Total youth consumption is modest, but like a python eating a pig, the impact of these demographic dynamics will be visible over an extended period of time as today’s young adult cohort ages. Nine-month year-to-date US cigarette consumption is down ~3 per cent , despite only very modest net pricing.

A woman smokes in Times Square. Photograph: Getty Images
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Scotland's huge deficit is an obstacle to independence

The country's borrowing level (9.5 per cent) is now double that of the UK. 

Ever since Brexit, and indeed before it, the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum has loomed. But today's public spending figures are one reason why the SNP will proceed with caution. They show that Scotland's deficit has risen to £14.8bn (9.5 per cent of GDP) even when a geographic share of North Sea revenue is included. That is more than double the UK's borrowing level, which last year fell from 5 per cent of GDP to 4 per cent. 

The "oil bonus" that nationalists once boasted of has become almost non-existent. North Sea revenue last year fell from £1.8bn to a mere £60m. Total public sector revenue was £400 per person lower than for the UK, while expenditure was £1,200 higher.  

Nicola Sturgeon pre-empted the figures by warning of the cost to the Scottish economy of Brexit (which her government estimated at between £1.7bn and £11.2.bn a year by 2030). But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose considerable austerity. 

Nor would EU membership provide a panacea. Scotland would likely be forced to wait years to join owing to the scepticism of Spain and others facing their own secessionist movements. At present, two-thirds of the country's exports go to the UK, compared to just 15 per cent to other EU states.

The SNP will only demand a second referendum when it is convinced it can win. At present, that is far from certain. Though support for independence rose following the Brexit vote, a recent YouGov survey last month gave the No side a four-point lead (45-40). Until the nationalists enjoy sustained poll leads (as they have never done before), the SNP will avoid rejoining battle. Today's figures are a considerable obstacle to doing so. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.