HC Deb 03 February 1993 vol 218 cc310-1
5. Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland for what reasons nicotine patches are not prescribable in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

The position on nicotine patches is the same throughout the United Kingdom. One type of patch is not available on prescription under the NHS on the advice of the advisory committee on borderline substances. The product is now available on private prescription or over the counter from registered pharmacists. The committee is liaising with the manufacturers of two similar products so that they can be considered as quickly as possible.

Mr. Wray

Is the Minister aware that in Scotland 34 per cent. of those aged 16 and over smoke, compared with 29 per cent. in England? Is he also aware that the death rate from lung cancer in Scotland is 28 per cent. higher for males and 36 per cent. higher for females than in England? That causes an horrendous cost in respect of hospitalisation and creates great strains on the health service budget.

I understand that the nicotine patches cost £186 for a course, or £15 a week. I read in the press last week—

Madam Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman ask his question?

Mr. Wray

I was reading in the press last week that one can obtain those patches for £4 on a prescription south of the border, but they cost us plenty in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point, because some of the press reports have been misleading. The position is exactly the same north and south of the border. Specific advice on the prescribing of nicotine patches has not been issued. The House will agree with the first point raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray) and I am certainly aware of the figures. That is why the Government have a policy of reducing smoking in Scotland in accordance with quite specific targets—to reduce the number of smokers aged 12 to 24 by 30 per cent. and those aged between 25 and 65 by 20 per cent. by the year 2000.

Mrs. Fyfe

May I welcome the enforcement of the law announced this week against selling tobacco to anyone aged under 16 and the Minister of State's recognition that we need to reduce teenage smoking? Will the Minister therefore support the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to control smoking in the workplace? Will he take the logical step and support our call for a ban on tobacco advertising? This week marks the 75th anniversary of women getting the vote. Clearly, we still have a long way to go. Women want sensible and effective legislation, not half measures. Will the Minister listen to women, or does he prefer to listen to the tobacco companies?

Mr. Stewart

I assure the hon. Lady that I very often listen to women. I am grateful for the hon. Lady's first point. In relation to the workplace, I had a very useful meeting with the chief medical officer and employers' organisations to encourage greater attention to health promotion with particular emphasis on reducing smoking in the workplace. The CMO has had similar discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The hon. Lady will know that the Government have brought in at the United Kingdom level a new, tougher voluntary agreement with the industry on tobacco advertising. That agreement is now in force and it is the sensible way forward.