Health Campaigns

Health written question – answered on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Government campaigns in the past 15 years in reducing the consumption of (a) alcohol and (b) tobacco.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

holding answer 2 November 2001

The aim of the Department's health promotion campaigns on alcohol during the period in question has been to encourage sensible drinking and to promote knowledge of the risks of alcohol misuse. Current advice is that men should drink no more than 3–4 units of alcohol per day and women should drink no more than 2–3 units of alcohol per day. There has been a consistent increase in recent years of the proportion of drinkers who were aware of the sensible drinking advice: a rise from 54 per cent. in 1997 to 64 per cent. in 2000.

Our tobacco education campaign, launched in December 1999, is aimed at persuading smokers to give up and non-smokers, particularly children, not to start.

Between October 1992 and May 1994 a prospective controlled trial was conducted in four television regions in central and northern England. Evaluation showed that the campaign was effective in reducing smoking and preventing relapse but as part of a prolonged campaign. We concluded that anti-smoking TV advertising should be undertaken routinely as an essential component of any tobacco reduction strategy.

A number of different measures are in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the "Don't Give Up Giving Up" TV advertising campaign, which has been running since December 1999. Quarterly surveys of smoking attitudes and awareness of the campaign are being carried out and results indicate that the campaign is well recalled and is communicating effectively with the target audience.

There is a clear link between advertising and the number of calls to the helpline. In non-advertising periods there is a background level of around 1,000 calls per week to the helpline, this increases to approximately 4,000 a week when there is advertising activity.

The website "givingupsmoking.co.uk" has had over 4.4 million "hits" since its launch in December 1999.

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation, in partnership with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, published a report entitled "Smoking Media Cessation Campaigns from Around the World". The study evaluated the results of mass media campaigns from nine nations (including England) and six states from the United States of America. The report concluded that comprehensive media campaigns are working and that successful campaigns

"maintained a strong media presence for extended periods of time."

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