Thursday, 22 July 2010

Andrew Lansley answers BHF question in online Q&A

Today Health Secretary Andrew Lansley took part in a live online Q&A answering questions on the Government’s proposals to reform health services in Britain via Twitter and the Number10 website.

We took this opportunity to ask him the following question:

"Will the Govt put public health at the heart of plans & implement vital tobacco control legislation to protect children?"

This is because it was reported in the media last week that ministers may not implement new laws to ban cigarette vending machines.

We have campaigned hard to get rid of these machines because we know they are an easy source of tobacco for children.

Nearly 40 per cent of adults who smoke, or are ex-smokers, started before they were 16 and we estimate about 23,000 11-15 year olds get hold of cigarettes from vending machines in England and Wales – and another 851 in Northern Ireland.

My final depressing but poignant statistic is that every year in the UK, 114,000 smokers die as a result of smoking, with over 25,000 smoking-related deaths from heart disease.

It’s obvious why it’s so crucial the Government sees through this legislation.

In his response, Andrew Lansley said:

“We need a more effective public health strategy too many things have been heading in the wrong direction, including obesity, alcohol and drug misuse and sexually transmitted infections. As we interfere less in the NHS day by day I want us to be a Government that focuses more on improving our health and wellbeing depends on working across society.

Smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of early deaths. We have had important legislation to ban smoking in public places, further controls especially on under-age tobacco sales. Although smoking has declined from about more than half the population smoking 40 years ago to between a quarter and a fifth now it is stubborning(sic) persistent now.

I think we have got to look to new approaches for public health that are not just about supply but are also about demand. So we need to change people's relationship with tobacco or drugs or alcohol so that they don't need or become dependent on these.

Where people see that the majority of people don't like to be exposed to tobacco smoke, where those who do smoke understand that it is expensive and harmful, our public health strategy to be published later this year will look at how we can increase the effectiveness of tackling these health challenges much more effectively in the future.”

We hope the new coalition Government, with its commitment to public health, implements the vital ban on cigarette vending machines and tobacco advertising at point of sale – to help stop children taking up this deadly habit.

Thank you to everyone who helped us get a response by retweeting our question. We couldn't have got an answer without your help, and a special thank you goes to @HannahT83 on Twitter whose retweet was answered by Andrew Lansley.

If you want to do more, we are asking supporters to email their MP asking them to make sure this law becomes reality.

To find out more about our cigarette vending machine campaign, visit our campaigns section on the BHF website.

By Maura Gillespie, Head of Policy & Advocacy

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