Scottish Social Attitudes: Public Attitudes to Alcohol and Tobacco Use and Weight

This module from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey focuses on public attitudes towards alcohol and tobacco use and weight.
Close up of woman smoking

This report, written by the Scottish Government, presents the findings from the 2021/22 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA), conducted between October 2021 and March 2022. It focusses on attitudes towards people with harmful alcohol use, high tobacco use and those living with obesity, or who are overweight, and seeks to explore the following key questions:

  • To what extent do people think that the responsibility lies with the individuals themselves or society?
  • Who should be responsible for helping people with these issues?


  • Of the three health issues, the public were most likely to agree that people who smoke heavily (44%) ‘have only themselves to blame’
  • Men were more likely than women to agree that people who are heavy smokers (48% compared with 39%) and people who are overweight or obese ‘have only themselves to blame’ (34% compared with 22%)
  • Those with no qualifications were more likely than those educated to at least degree level to agree that people have only themselves to blame across all three health issues
  • Large majorities agreed that ‘It’s in all our interests to give help and support to ‘people who have serious drinking problems’ (91%) and ‘people who are overweight or obese’ (84%)
  • People most commonly thought that responsibility for reducing the number of people who are overweight or obese in Scotland should fall with ‘individuals who are overweight and obese themselves’ (88%), ‘parents and carers’ (84%), and ‘food and drink manufacturers’ (70%)
  • Almost all (95%) of people living in the least deprived areas agreed that ‘individuals who are overweight and obese’ should be responsible for reducing obesity in Scotland, compared with 74% of those in the most deprived areas


Every year, we ask 1,200-1,500 people to take part in Scottish Social Attitudes on the basis of random probability sampling.

This technique ensures that everyone has an equal chance of being picked to take part, so the results are representative of the Scottish population.

Data are then weighted in order to correct for non-response bias and differential selection probabilities to ensure that they reflect the age-sex profile of the Scottish population.

About the Scottish Social Attitudes survey

SSA has been a face-to-face survey since 1999 but last year (2021/22), due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey was conducted over the phone. It should therefore be taken into account that changes in attitudes may be, at least in part, due to changes to the survey methodology. However, it is not expected that the changes in methodology would have had a notable impact on the results for these particular measures – as may be the case for other measures included in the 2021/22 survey and reported elsewhere.