Smoking and Women

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 10th March 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 2:30 pm, 10th March 2004

My Lords, on National No Smoking Day, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the estimated number of women who smoke; and what action they are taking to reduce that number.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, in England in 2001, 25 per cent of women aged 16 and over smoked cigarettes regularly; that is around 5.1 million women. We have a comprehensive strategy to tackle smoking aimed at the whole population, including ending tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; education and media campaigns, and helping smokers to give up. We are aware that women are taking our messages to heart and that NHS smoking cessation services are used more by women than by men.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware that the health risks of smoking to women have been found to be increasingly severe? What is being done to help young women not to take up smoking as opposed to stopping smoking?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, before answering those questions, perhaps I may say how much the Government support the theme of today's 21st National No Smoking Day for smokers "who want out". We know that more young women have set a quit date with the help of NHS stop smoking services, which have seen a very substantial increase in take-up by young women, of around 100 per cent. The Government have published their consultation paper, Choosing Health?, setting out a number of proposals and ideas to which we are asking people to respond.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, as regards the original Question tabled by the noble Baroness, does not the Minister agree that it is rather strange, because surely the action that the Government could take to reduce the number of women is to give them some more cigarettes?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, perhaps we need some especially genetically modified cigarettes for that.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Shadow Minister, Spokesperson On Older People

My Lords, in the report, Smoking Cessation and Young People—Should we do more to help young smokers to quit?, produced by the Health Development Agency, the point is firmly made that most smoking cessation campaigns are directed at adults. What discussions has the department had with the HDA about running specifically targeted promotional campaigns directed at young people, and in particular at young females?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, the Government's current campaign, while directed at adults, also shows them the impact of smoking in relation to young children and the damage it does to them. The prevalence of smoking among children is declining, falling to 10 per cent in 2002.

Photo of Baroness Gale Baroness Gale Labour

My Lords, what further measures are being taken to ensure that the law preventing the sale of cigarettes to people under 16 years of age is robust? Has there been an increase in the number of prosecutions of those who sell cigarettes to children under the age of 16?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, enforcement is a matter for local agencies. I do not know the precise number of prosecutions, but I will write to my noble friend.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, can the Minister let me know whether any research has been carried out on whether women who are heavy smokers also have problems with alcohol? If so, is there any connection with addiction?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, it is quite possible that there is research evidence on that. I do not have it, but I will write to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

My Lords, will my noble friend note that his condemnation of smoking is widely welcomed? However, it would be more persuasive if he were able to give an undertaking to come regularly to this House during European Union budget discussions in order to tell us precisely what steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to propose the banning of tobacco subsidies in the budget, who are their allies and what success they have achieved.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, I love to participate in all matters European. I take note of that kind invitation from my noble friend.

Photo of Lord Walton of Detchant Lord Walton of Detchant Crossbench

My Lords, given the strict laws relating to the age at which it is legal to consume alcohol, would not a major contribution be made towards reducing smoking by young people if smoking were banned in bars, clubs and restaurants?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, we have been discussing this issue for some time in the House. I draw the noble Lord's attention to the consultation document, Choosing Health?, published last week. The Government have asked a number of questions and are awaiting the responses. Covered in those questions are matters such as: should the Government pass a law to make all enclosed workplaces and public places smoke free; what about restaurants, pubs and bars; and would local authorities be better placed than central government to introduce such laws? We want to await people's responses to that consultation paper.

Photo of Lord Chan Lord Chan Crossbench

My Lords, women living in poorer inner-city communities, in particular those who are single parents, find it very difficult to give up smoking. What can the Government do to support them, in particular through schemes such as Sure Start and others?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, I will look into that suggestion and write to the noble Lord. As I said in answer to an earlier question, women are doing better than men in using smoking cessation services. We have seen a large increase in the number of women who have managed to quit smoking, from around 19,000 in 2001 to around 40,000 in 2002–03, as a result of those services.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Conservative

My Lords, is the Minister aware that since 1997 total tobacco consumption in this country has gone up, compared with a marked decrease over the previous 25 years? Is he also aware that one in five of the cigarettes smoked in the UK is smuggled into the country? What are the Government doing to prevent contraband tobacco entering the UK?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, in 2000, the "Tackling Tobacco Smuggling" strategy was launched to reduce the flow of smuggled cigarettes. The proportion is now down to 18 per cent rather than 20 per cent. Government investment of more than £200 million has helped to fund almost 1,000 extra Customs officers, a national network of X-ray scanners and the introduction of "duty paid" marks on legitimate packets of cigarettes.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, do the Government regard nicotine impregnated chewing gum as a useful means of reducing addiction? If so, do they support its use? Will there be suitable instructions for the disposal of the gum on every packet sold?

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, can the Minister say what impact smoking during pregnancy has on the birth weight of children? What impact does it have on the IQ of these children? What is the likely significance of smoking during pregnancy for the later development of children into adulthood?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, the Government's position is clear: it is to warn women about the undesirability of smoking during pregnancy. Around 6,800 pregnant women set a quit date through NHS stop smoking services in 2002-03. About half of those had successfully quit at the four-week follow up.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, in order to give a lead, do all Government Ministers undertake not to smoke?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, I would not dare inquire into their personal practices in this matter.