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Smoking Cessation

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 24th November 2009.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:30 pm, 24th November 2009

If his Department will take steps to promote the health benefits of low-toxicant smokeless tobacco products as aids for smoking cessation.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

There is no evidence that smokeless tobacco can help people to quit smoking. Such products are tobacco, and they release harmful toxins when used. The Department therefore has no plans to promote that form of tobacco, but we will continue to support smokers in quitting using safer means, including licensed nicotine replacement medicines.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

What an arrogant and irresponsible reply that is. Does the Minister not realise that based on the Swedish experience, if snus were legalised in the United Kingdom it would save up to 30,000 lives a year? Does she not realise that even the World Health Organisation recognises snus as a useful harm reduction product?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but there are very good reasons for my comments. The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, which is both official and independent and provides the European Commission with scientific advice, considered in detail the health effects of smokeless tobacco products and concluded that such products were addictive. I have myself looked at the packaging of such items and seen that even the tobacco industry acknowledges that they are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

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Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour, West Bromwich West

May I associate myself with my hon. Friend the Minister's remarks? Does she agree that the most effective way to reduce the incidence of smoking is to reduce peer group pressure on young people to take up smoking? What assessment has she made of the role of the ban on smoking in public bars and restaurants in achieving that?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

My hon. Friend will know that just this year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the NHS stop smoking services, which have saved more than 70,000 lives. We know that people are four times as likely to quit with support than without it. The important point that he makes is that two thirds of smokers start before they are 18, and that is why smoke-free legislation and other measures in recent health legislation will contribute to reducing the numbers of new recruits to the tobacco industry.

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