HC Deb 24 February 1998 vol 307 c159
4. Mr. Sheerman

What steps he is taking to promote healthy styles of living among young women. [29316]

Ms Jowell

The Government's Green Paper "Our Healthier Nation" sets out a strategy for promoting healthy life styles among the whole population, including young women. We are working with the Health Education Authority and the media on initiatives to address issues that are relevant to young women, including smoking rates, alcohol consumption, sexual health and teenage pregnancy.

Mr. Sheerman

My hon. Friend will know that, although I welcome what she has said, after 10 months under a Labour Government, many Labour Members are a little impatient for a formidable national advertising campaign to tackle the health of young women. Will she commission the best advertising agencies in this country, which are some of the best in the world, and spend real money on an advertising campaign aimed at young women? There is an epidemic of smoking among young women, and they will later get cancer, so the message should be driven home. We have banned advertising—I fully support that—but advertising money is being shifted into product placement in films and on television. Do we not need an active campaign, sooner rather than later?

Ms Jowell

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall take action on advertising to make young women aware of the risks of smoking. I shall shortly be meeting editors of teenage magazines to raise that and other issues with them.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The hon. Lady will be aware that one in five women suffer from a mental illness, and that such illnesses cause one in four days off sick among women. I welcome the inclusion of mental health as a key area of the relaunched health strategy, and the proposal of a target similar to that in the previous health strategy. Does she agree, however, that the omission of any mention of mental health in the White Paper "The New NHS" is deplorable? Does she plan to review the Mental Health Act 1983, which would be a great help to young women and others?

Ms Jowell

I assure the right hon. Lady that we work as one Government and as one team of Health Ministers, and that mental health is indeed referred to in the White Paper. The White Paper and the Green Paper together represent the Government's strategy to improve health, to tackle inequality—that was a glaring gap in the last Government's action in relation to health—and to rebuild a modern and dependable national health service.