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Dobson launches tobacco crusade
Frank Dobson
Frank Dobson: we must stop young people smoking
Health Secretary Frank Dobson has announced a major government campaign to cut smoking in the UK by 1.5m by the year 2010.

Mr Dobson said that that teenagers and pregnant women are to be specifically targetted by the campaign outlined in a White Paper, Smoking Kills.

Out of every 1,000 20-year-olds who smoked regularly, Mr Dobson said, 250 would die of smoking in middle age, and a further 250 would be killed by smoking-related disease in later life.

"Smoking is the now the principal avoidable cause of premature death in Britain," he said.

"It hits the worst off people hardest of all. Smoking is one of the principal causes of the health gap which leads to poorer people being ill more often and dying sooner."

The White Paper contains proposals designed to give people more help to kick the habit, and measures to limit the ability of the tobacco industry to promote its products.

Mr Dobson said the government was making 60m available to set up the "first ever comprehensive NHS service" to help the seven out of ten smokers who wanted to quit give up their addiction.

A history of tobacco
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and health visitors would all be encouraged to take every opportunity to counsel people who wanted to give up smoking.

Mr Dobson said all health authorities would be expected to address smoking in their health improvement programmes.

Resources will be specifically targeted to combat smoking in deprived areas designated by the government as Health Action Zones.

A week's supply of nicotine replacement therapy patches will be made available free to people on low incomes.

To combat smoking among the young, Mr Dobson said a new criminal offence would be introduced to deal with shopkeepers who repeatedly sold tobacco products to children under the age of 16.

He was also working with the retail industry to develop an identity card for teenagers, without which they could not purchase age-restricted goods.

The National Association of Cigarette Machine Operators had also agreed new guidelines to situate vending machines in places that are inaccessible to children.

Trading standards officers will also be expected to take more effective action against rogue retailers under a new enforcement protocol agreed with the Local Government Association and the trading standards officers' body.

The government has negotiated with representatives of the hospitality industry a code of conduct for reducing smoking in public places.

"This package should make a real impact on the illegal sales of tobacco to children," Mr Dobson said.

Advertising ban

Formula One Racing
Formula One racing must cut tobacco sponsorship
Mr Dobson announced that legislation will be brought forward in the 1998/1999 parliamentary session to end tobacco advertising on billboards at the earliest practicable opportunity.

The government also intends to ban tobacco advertising in the printed media to stop tobacco firms from switching their marketing strategy.

Tobacco advertising in shops will be kept to a minimum, with adverts only allowed where tobacco products are on sale.

Most sponsorship by tobacco firms would be banned by the year 2003. Formula One motor racing may be exempted from the ban until 2006 because it is a global event, but only if it had demonstrated moves to cut tobacco sponsorship and advertising.

The Health Secretary said taxes on tobacco products had already risen significantly under Labour, and would continue to do so.

In addition, the government was pumping 50m over three years into an anti-smoking campaign.

Mr Dobson cited research showing tobacco firms need to recruit 120,000 young smokers a year to replace those dying.

He said the tobacco industry had been planned for 20 years how it would combat a ban on advertising.

"We can be assured they will be well prepared. As I speak I am certain tobacco company executives will be planning their strategy to keep up tobacco sales," he said.

"We have got to get ahead of the game."

Following Mr Dobson's statement, it was announced that an extra 35m will be made available to fund a new offensive against tobacco smuggling.

New targets will be set to reduce smoking in England. Separate targets will be set in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The targets for England are:

  • To reduce smoking among children from 13% to 9% or less by the year 2010;

  • To reduce adult smoking in all social classes so that the overall rate falls from 28% to 24% or less by the year 2010:

  • To reduce the number of women who smoke during pregnancy from 23% to 15% by the year 2010.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Office has launched its own 8m two-pronged attack on smoking.

The campaign will include health education and providing help for people to stop smoking, including free Nicotine Replacement Therapy for the most deprived areas.

Frank Dobson sets Labour's aims
Frank Dobson: "Advertising will end and it will end soon"
Frank Dobson explains the measures to help smokers quit
How Frank Dobson proposes to protect children
The BBC's Fergus Walsh: Poorest smokers to get a week's free supply of nicotine patches
See also:

14 Dec 98 | Health
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