HC Deb 13 November 2001 vol 374 cc699-700
4. Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

If he will make a statement on progress on smoking cessation services. [12108]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Hazel Blears)

The national health service smoking cessation services are making excellent progress. In 2000–01, 61,500 smokers successfully quit.

Mr. McFall

What will be the funding for the next financial year, and is it in place? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is shameful that Parliament has not grasped the nettle and introduced a ban on tobacco advertising? When will the Government face up to their responsibilities, so that we stop all people, particularly young people, starting to smoke in the first place, and thereby remove the need for such programmes?

Ms Blears

My hon. Friend is right that smoking cessation is a top priority for the Government. Smoking causes 120,000 deaths a year and costs the NHS £1.7 billion. With regard to future funding, we are asking primary care groups and trusts to plan for the needs of their communities because the services are incredibly successful. As I have said, 61,500 smokers quit last year, and the target for this year is for 40,000 smokers to quit. Nearly 30,000 quit in the first quarter, so the services are successful and we must ensure that they continue in the future. It is right that we try to prevent people from smoking in the first place. We have a manifesto commitment to bring back the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill in the lifetime of this Parliament. If it had not been frustrated by the Opposition, we might be further on than we are now.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Will the hon. Lady confirm that it is not only patches that help people to give up smoking, but that there is a range of other alternatives, including hypnotherapy, reflexology, cranial-osteopathy and shiatsu? Is she aware that shiatsu is now available in the House of Commons Gym and that it can help with the cessation of smoking? Does she think that it is right that, although Members of Parliament can benefit from shiatsu, it is not available on the health service?

Ms Blears

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is creative and imaginative, and suggests wonderful solutions. I agree that there is a range of therapies that can help people to give up smoking, and we should be exploring whatever works in helping people to do that. In terms of access to hands-on therapies, I am not entirely sure whether Members of Parliament should be taking that route. None the less, I believe that we should explore whatever therapies work for people.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that when smoking cessation services are part of programmes carried out in health action zones, such as the Thurcroft healthy hearts programme in my constituency, they, too, should be evaluated? If they are providing what we believe to be major services for improving health in our communities, they should be funded in years to come.

Ms Blears

Many of the health action zones have done marvellous work in this field. For example, many of them are training young people to act as peer mentors. Thus, young people are persuading other young people why it is good to give up smoking and not to take it up in the first place. That is far more effective than older people telling younger ones what to do. Health action zones have been incredibly innovative in those areas. That is why we are asking primary care groups and primary care trusts to plan their commissioning for the long term, so that these excellent examples of good practice can be put into the mainstream of the health service.

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