HC Deb 11 November 1997 vol 300 cc698-9
8. Mr. Jim Cunningham

If he will make a statement about levels of smoking among young people in England. [13816]

The Minister for Public Health (Ms Tessa Jowell)

In 1996, 13 per cent. of all secondary school children in England were regular smokers, but by the age of 15, 33 per cent. of girls and 28 per cent. of boys were smokers.

Mr. Cunningham

Can my hon. Friend ensure that the principal aims of the Government's policy to cut the numbers of young people and teenagers smoking will be maintained?

Ms Jowell

It is a measure of the previous Government's failure that one in three 15-year-old girls are hooked on cigarettes before leaving school. That is why our first priority is to cut smoking among children.

Mr. Maples

May I remind the hon. Lady, that in a departmental press release on 14 July, she said: Certainly we want to see an end to tobacco advertising in the form of sports sponsorship"? In her article in The Daily Telegraph today, she says: The decision to propose an exemption for Formula One is one that has my total support. On which occasion was she telling us what she really thought?

Ms Jowell

Policies to stop children smoking that work have my total support. A ban on advertising will stop children smoking. Negotiating a global ban on advertising with formula one will stop children smoking. That is our overriding priority.

Mr. Stevenson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the task facing the Government now is to get on with a ban on advertising smoking, where that can be practically and quickly achieved? Would not such a measure of the Government's determination be in stark contrast to the cowardly attitude of the Conservative party, which steadfastly refused to face up to that important issue?

Ms Jowell

We intend to make progress with a comprehensive range of measures to stop children smoking and to support the seven out of every 10 smokers who want to give up. The mark of success for our Government will be that we make real progress in reducing the needless death and suffering caused by smoking–121,000 people are dying every year and we are determined to stop that.

Sir Raymond Whitney

Does the Minister accept that, given that thousands of young people are interested in motor sports, there is widespread concern about the impact of the Government's recent decision on advertising in motor sports? Does she also agree that, uniquely, be it rightly or wrongly, the conjunction between the allegations of political contributions and the Government's U-turn causes serious concern throughout the country?

Ms Jowell

This Government, unlike the last Government, will ban tobacco advertising. This Government, unlike the last Government, will reduce the rate at which people die from cigarette smoking. The only legacy of the last Government was the fact that health Ministers who stood up and tried to do something about smoking were moved very quickly.