Five-Year Tobacco Action Plan

Oral Answers to Questions — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Esmond Birnie Esmond Birnie UUP 3:15, 14 October 2002

6. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety how many responses have so far been made to the public consultation on the five-year tobacco action plan.

(AQO 338/02)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Fuarthas freagra is tríocha go nuige. Críochnaíonn an tréimhse chomhairliúcháin ar 15 Samhain 2002.

Thirty-one responses have been received so far. The consultation period ends on 15 November 2002.

Photo of Esmond Birnie Esmond Birnie UUP

Since the plan’s aim is to reduce the amount of smoking in the Northern Ireland population, can the Minister assure us that her Department leads by example? What measures are in place among her staff to discourage smoking in the Department? For example, are there smoking rooms in the departmental headquarters and such buildings?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

We have taken considerable steps to discourage smoking. The Member knows that all steps have been taken to ensure that our staff, as others, lead by example in the work that must be done on this. We have undertaken public information campaigns. We have television advertisements, a web site and a magazine, all aimed at discouraging smoking among young people. Earlier this year we released the hard-hitting television advertisement entitled ‘Artery’, which we saw earlier this year. That was aimed mainly at adult smokers, particularly disadvantaged adults. There is a campaign to promote a telephone helpline service. The Member will be pleased to note that work on a new campaign is well under way, as is action to award a contract for a permanent telephone helpline to complement cessation services.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP

How can the Minister take any action on the responses to the five-year tobacco action plan when she has singularly failed to address the waiting lists for operations; the deficit of staff in almost every sector; and the total lack of confidence of the general public in her ability to do the job?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

I am somewhat reluctant to respond to a series of questions that, like the heckling today, has more to do with current selection conventions in the Unionist community to choose candidates for forthcoming elections than with services.

However, the work that I outlined in answer to the previous question is only a small part of all the work that has been done. We have been working towards a ban on tobacco advertising. There have been public information campaigns, and considerable work has been done on the key target groups. We have also been working to get the public health messages out, and we have been working particularly hard to ensure that the public are personally engaged in this, so that all aspects of one of the greatest causes of disease in our population are tackled and fought. That is alongside the wider social and economic determinants of health, which I am delighted that we have been able to address in our ‘Investing for Health’ strategy.