E-cigarettes — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:36 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 2:36 pm, 31st October 2019

I thank the Minister for her response to the debate and for her kind comments. There has been a remarkable consensus about the action we are taking in this country, and the need for it to be evidence-based. It is clear that the United Kingdom is ahead of the game internationally on smoking cessation work, and that is something we should celebrate. However, we should never allow ourselves to feel that we have done the job. We have so much still to do, particularly given the number of people who die every year from smoking, as Sir Kevin Barron made clear. The carnage—the death toll—is enormous, so the work needs to continue.

We have heard some wonderful admissions. The right hon. Member for Rother Valley and Bill Grant have admitted to smoking heavily in the past; they are both wonderful living examples of life after smoking. [Interruption.] Less coughing, please. They are wonderful examples to others of the potential value of giving up smoking, and I wish both of them a very happy retirement from this place.

I will quickly pick up on one or two points. I agree with the right hon. Member for Rother Valley that inserts in packs are a very good way of targeting an important public health message directly at people who need to hear it, and who need to be reassured that giving up smoking and vaping instead is going to help their health—a point we made in the report. I also agree with him about the case for the tobacco industry making a contribution to the cost of smoking cessation services, on the basic principle that the polluter pays.

My hon. Friend Jane Dodds, who has had to leave, made some important points about cross-border health issues. I applaud her for championing access to mental health support in Wales, which is incredibly important. The point in this debate is that every mental health facility and, in particular, every in-patient mental health facility, whether in England, Wales or Scotland, should offer the same access and support to enable people to give up smoking, using vaping as the mechanism to do so. Giving up smoking will lead to significant gains in not only people’s life expectancy, but their mental health; smoking harms their mental health as well as killing them earlier.

Gareth Johnson and my hon. Friend Graham Stringer both made the point that regulation must always be evidence-based. That has not been the case with the European Union directive or internationally, given the debate we have had about the World Health Organisation and the approach that is taken in America. In this country we want our regulations to be evidence-based, to give people the best chance of giving up smoking and having a healthier life.

On a personal basis, not in my role as Chair of the Select Committee, I agree with Mrs Hodgson that investment in public health is important. There is much evidence that investment in early prevention work of all sorts, and in public mental health, provides—in brutal economic terms—a return on investment. It also changes lives. The plea to whomever becomes the Government after 12 December is this: make the investment in public health, because we will all benefit.

I thank you, Sir Henry, for your stewardship of the debate, and I wish all hon. Members well for the next few weeks. I am very relieved that I am not fighting to retain my seat in the middle of winter.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the Seventh Report of the Science and Technology Committee, Session 2017-19, E-cigarettes, HC 505, and the Government Response, Cm 9738.

Sitting suspended.