HC Deb 23 November 2000 vol 357 cc427-8
7. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

If he will assess the impact of anti-smoking programmes in schools in the past 10 years. [138363]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Jacqui Smith)

My Department and the Department of Health have funded a wide range of educational materials for schools on the dangers of smoking. The latest Office for National Statistics survey, entitled "Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking Among Young Teenagers in 1999", showed that regular smoking in the 11-15 age group has decreased since 1996 from 13 per cent. to 9 per cent.

Mr. Flynn

Unfortunately, that is not the answer to my question. Has the Minister noticed that the smokebusters campaign—which was well studied, conducted over four years and intended to decrease smoking among young people—coincided with the largest ever increase in smoking among young women, presumably because of the belief that smoking aids slimming? She referred not to the past 10 years, but only to the recent decrease, which has been explained by the fact that young people are spending more money on mobile phones. We all want to achieve a decrease in addiction and the harm caused by all drugs, legal and illegal, but before we embark on more expensive anti-drug education campaigns, would not it be reasonable to make a real assessment of the effect of such campaigns and of peer pressure and fashion?

Jacqui Smith

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to evaluate provision. Although I do not take a defeatist attitude to what our schools are able to achieve in educating young people, which he sometimes does in this respect, I agree that research is important. That is why the Department has agreed to commission a long—term study—a longitudinal study—to consider the impact of drug education policies in our schools. [Interruption.] There is a murmur from Conservative Members. We are commissioning the study because one was not commissioned by the previous Government.

The objectives of the study are to examine the effects of drug education from primary school age through transition to secondary school; to assess knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to age 16; and to investigate the effectiveness of drug education. I also agree with my hon. Friend that a range of issues may influence smoking activity among young people. We put smoking education in a framework for personal, social and health education, which allows schools and pupils to investigate the range of pressures on young people and how they can avoid those pressures. That is very important for achieving further success in this area.