Tobacco Advertising

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11 November 1997.

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Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Labour, Wyre Forest 12:00, 11 November 1997

What action the Government are taking to reduce tobacco advertising. [13823]

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

The Government are fully committed to banning tobacco advertising and are currently taking an active part in discussions with European Union member states on the draft directive on tobacco advertising.

Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Labour, Wyre Forest

I thank my hon. Friend for that statement. Does she accept that about one in six of my constituents who die, die as a result of tobacco-related illnesses, and that the vast majority of them began smoking before they reached the age of 20? Does she further accept that the tobacco companies know that, and target their billboard and magazine advertising at young people? Will she join me in condemning the Conservatives, who for 18 years knew the statistics and failed to take any effective action to protect our young people?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

As my hon. Friend makes clear, the record of the previous Government is shameful. As a result of their negligence, there has been an increase in the rate at which young people smoke. That is why we are committed to implementing a wide range of measures, which will be set out in our White Paper next year and which are designed particularly to tackle the increasing problem of young people taking up smoking. Most people start smoking before they are 20. That is why it is important to focus on efforts to stop young people taking up smoking in the first place.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

Can the Minister come up with even one formula to explain away the Government's U-turn on their manifesto commitment to ban tobacco advertising?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

There is no U-turn on any manifesto commitment: we will ban tobacco advertising, because we are determined to reduce the rate at which people die through smoking.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned in earlier answers the increase in smoking among young people that occurred under the previous Government. Has she any particular plans to tackle the increase in smoking among young women, as smoking has increased more quickly among them than among young men? Can she give us a preview of the actions she plans to take to target that group, who are extremely vulnerable and at risk of dying in future from their smoking now?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. There is no single measure that will enable us to be successful in reducing the rate at which people die through smoking. The case of young women is a good example. We will have to work with women's magazines and women's organisations to tackle the glamorising of smoking, which persuades so many women, young and older, to take up smoking. For many poor women, the reason they smoke is that their lives feel hopeless. That is why a range of other Government policies—such as getting young lone mothers back to work and raising educational standards—will all help in our battle to reduce smoking.