SCOTLAND’S health minister has admitted the Borders has “still some way to go” in reducing the number of smokers in the region.

Shona Robison was responding to new figures from the Scottish Government which revealed than an estimated 17,195 adults were regularly lighting up during 2016/17 - an increase of nearly 100 on the previous year.

At the same time the data showed fewer Borderers were accessing the Quit4Good smoking cessation service offered by NHS Borders, with just 951 approaching the service in 2016/17.

As reported in these columns last month, that is the first time the number of people seeking help to kick the habit has fallen below 1,000 since the scheme was started in 2009.

At Holyrood last week, South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne highlighted the new figures and demanded to know what action was proposed by the Scottish Government.

She was told by Ms Robison: “The relatively small decrease in the number of people using cessation services in the Borders last year was more than matched by a significant increase in the numbers who successfully quit using the service.

“The Scottish Government is working with NHS Scotland to launch a major national campaign in 2018 to encourage more smokers to use cessation services.

“Since the launch of our tobacco control strategy – Creating a Tobacco-free Generation – in 2013, there has been a significant reduction in smoking prevalence in the Scottish Borders where prevalence is well below the Scottish average.

“However, there is still some way to go and the Scottish Government will be bringing forward new measures to tackle smoking rates in a refresh of our strategy next year.”

Of the 951 people who approached Quit4Good for support in 2016/17, 271 or 28 per cent had successfully quit smoking 12 weeks later – a five per cent increase on last year and above the Scottish average of 22.9 per cent.

NHS Borders has also revealed that the number of successful 12 week quits in the 40 per cent “most deprived” areas of the region rose from 131 in 2015/16 to 140 in 2016/17.

“Unfortunately this missed the standard set of 173,” said Fiona Doig, strategic lead for the Alcohol and Drug Partnership and Health Improvement at NHS Borders.

“This is disappointing because once people have engaged with the service we know that success rates are higher.”