Smokefree 2030 — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:40 am on 26th April 2022.

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Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 10:40 am, 26th April 2022

I fully appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point. I enjoyed listening to his dissection of the issue, and I look forward to continuing discussions with the APPG.

The UK will continue its role as a global leader in tobacco control and remains fully committed to the World Health Organisation’s framework convention on tobacco control. The Department has received global recognition for its support of the official development assistance FCTC 2030 project over the past six years. This project helps low and middle-income countries improve their tobacco control and, ultimately, their population’s health. We will continue to support the project for a further three years under the current spending review settlement.

I turn to the questions raised during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East raised the point that the independent review is late. The review is on track to be published in advance of the health disparities White Paper, which it was set up to help inform, this summer. The review was originally intended to be published this month, so it is just a short delay that will not compromise the review’s impact.

The hon. Members for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and for Blaydon (Liz Twist) talked about smoking in pregnancy. The Department continues to explore options to support smoking cessation among pregnant women, which will be set out in our new tobacco control plan. Already, as part of the NHS long-term plan, we have made commitments for a new smokefree pregnancy pathway providing focused sessions and treatment to support expectant mothers and their partners to be smokefree. It is important that partners are involved.

The hon. Member for City of Durham mentioned the breaches of menthol regulations. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is investigating a range of cigarettes to determine whether the flavour is noticeable. Once that is complete, we will explore whether further action needs to be taken against companies who are in breach of the regulations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East and the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish talked about stop smoking services, which provide support to help smokers quit and are highly cost-effective. Local stop smoking services continue to offer smokers the best chance of quitting. They produce high quit rates of 59% after four weeks, and they have helped nearly 5 million people to quit since 2000. The services are a key part of the Government’s tobacco control strategy, and will remain so in the new tobacco control plan.

On any regulatory reforms the Government wish to take forward, we will review what legislative powers we have available to us, either through secondary legislation or exploring whether a Bill is required. I was asked why we rejected the tobacco amendments to the Health and Care Bill. We were grateful to Members for suggesting the amendments, which showed their strong support for tobacco control, but it is only right for my Department to fully consider the issues they raised—I am sure those issues will also be raised in Javed Khan’s report—before publishing the new tobacco control plan. We felt that was the right place for the suggestions made in debates on the Health and Care Bill.

I would like to reassure the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish that I am serious about making England smokefree by 2030, as is the Secretary of State. I thank the hon. Member for the support he and the Labour party have offered in the mission to make England smokefree. It is definitely a cross-party issue, and it is really good that we will all be able to work together.

The point about how we are supporting people with mental health conditions to cease smoking has been made a couple of times. The new universal smoking cessation offer is available through the NHS long-term plan for long-term users of specialist mental health services and people with learning disabilities. It is important that we tackle health inequalities brought about through mental health issues, and help those people to quit smoking as well.

I again thank hon. Members for securing the debate and for all their contributions to it. We have made good progress in reducing smoking rates, but the Government acknowledge that we need to go further to level up society and achieve a smokefree country by 2030. Later this year, we will publish a new tobacco control plan setting out how we will achieve our bold ambition. Working together across all parties, our mission is to make smoking a thing of the past and save future generations from the death and misery we all know it causes.