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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 16:11 GMT
Ministers in fresh anti-smoking drive
Ministers hope more people will quit smoking
The government is to step up efforts to help more people to quit smoking.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has pledged 15m to leading charities to fund new hard-hitting anti-smoking campaigns over the next three years.

He has also struck a deal to enable the NHS to buy smoking cessation products more cheaply from manufacturers.


The poorer you are the more the likely you are to get sick and die earlier - this is a disgrace is 21st century Britain

Dr Peter Tiplady, BMA
The policies are part of renewed government efforts to improve public health.

Mr Milburn used a speech to the Faculty of Public Health Medicine to back European Union moves to include graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

Hard-hitting campaign

He also announced that the government would contribute towards new television and radio advertising campaigns by Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation to encourage more people to give up smoking.

Under a deal struck with the pharmaceutical industry, the four leading suppliers of nicotine replacement therapy will offer the government a rebate for sales over a certain threshold.

Mr Milburn said the agreement would act as an incentive to the NHS to spend more on smoking cessation products up front.

He said the rebate could be used to fund smoking prevention policies.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Mr Milburn wants to cut health inequalities
The health secretary added that the government wanted to put a fresh emphasis on prevention and to eliminate health inequalities.

"The time has now come to put renewed emphasis on prevention as well as cure so that we develop in our country health services and not just sickness services. It is time for a sea change in attitudes," he said.

The speech comes three years after ministers published Our Healthier Nation - a white paper spelling out key targets to improve public health.

These included a pledge to cut deaths from heart disease and stroke by two fifths by 2010 and to reduce cancer deaths by a fifth over the same period.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold a special cabinet meeting as part of the government's renewed focus on public health.

He will order government departments to work together to tackle health inequalities and to improve access to services.

Charities welcomed the additional funding for anti-smoking campaigns.

Sir Paul Nurse, its chief executive, said: "One third of all cancers and nine out of 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by tobacco.


Ministers must focus existing NHS resources on better public health, and preventing illness

Paul Burstow, Lib Dems
"With this significant new support we will take our tobacco control campaign up a gear to reveal the truth behind these chilling statistics."

Leslie Busk, director general of the British Heart Foundation, added: "We look forward to collaborating with the government on developing hard-hitting and effective anti-smoking campaigns."

Dr Peter Tiplady of the British Medical Association backed the government's move to tackle health inequalities.

"The fact is the poorer you are the more the likely you are to get sick and die earlier - this is a disgrace is 21st century Britain," he said.

Professor Sian Griffiths, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: "The emphasis on prevention offers a challenge to the public health workforce to aid in the delivery of these targets."

Clive Bates, director of ASH said: "The extra 15m for hard-hitting campaigns on the reality of smoking to be delivered by major charities is an inspired move and, on top of what the government already spends, amounts to a major escalation in the war against smoking."

In a statement, the Health Development Agency said: "The old saying 'prevention is better than cure' has never been more true. Unless we make changes and break this vicious circle, the future health service will still struggle to treat the ill-health that could have been partly prevented now."

Record under fire

Shadow health spokesman Simon Burns criticised Mr Milburn's speech.

"It is time for the government to stop rededicating itself to public health with another gimmick, and just get on with the job of improving the public's health," he said.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Burstow added: "Ministers must focus existing NHS resources on better public health, and preventing illness."

See also:

02 May 02 | Health
09 Oct 01 | Health
28 Feb 01 | Health
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