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Shadow Public Health Minister calls for fresh drive on reducing smoking with focus on pregnant women

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27 Jun 2011
Diane Abbott will today (Thursday) make the case for a fresh drive in tackling smoking to reduce health inequalities, during a visit to the northeast of England.

Ms Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, is calling for a regional approach first developed in the northeast for tobacco control and now also in place in the northwest and southwest, to be rolled out across the rest of the UK as well. The region has succeeded in reducing smoking rates far more rapidly than the national average.

The Shadow Public Health Minister also believes there needs to be a new focus on reducing the number of women in England who smoke during pregnancy. Figures released by the ONS show that women in routine and manual jobs were the most likely to smoke (40%), while those in professional and managerial jobs were the least likely (14%).

Speaking in Newcastle at a meeting involving ASH (Action for Smoking and Health), Ms Abbott said:

‘Smoking is a killer that every individual pays for, whether you smoke or not. The cost of smoking to the UK is estimated to be over £13.7 billion a year.’

‘The northeast has led the way on reducing smoking, bringing down smoking rates far more rapidly than the national average and as a result the northeast no longer has the worst smoking rates in England.’

‘The northeast has their own office of tobacco control and their own strategy, and this successful model has been followed by the northwest and southwest. The rest of the UK needs to follow suit, starting with London’

Ms Abbott raised concerns about the prevalence of mothers who smoke during pregnancy and also issued a warning about the government’s proposed changes in public health structures as set out in the Health and Social Care Bill:

‘The price paid by hardworking families across Britain by smoking is great. Figures show that women in routine and manual jobs are the most likely to smoke. Almost everything that can go wrong with a baby, such as being stillborn, the victim of cot death or being born with deformities is much more likely if the mother smokes during pregnancy.’

‘Yet many of the key structures that are in place are threatened by this government. Because of the chaos surrounding the wider Health Service re-organisation, the lack of clarity and direction on how much public health money local authorities will get, and the extent to which the Tories are in the pocket of big business, the Government’s proposals are not going to be improving public health or reaching those families that need the support any time soon.’

Ms Abbott also highlighted the work of the last Labour government in making progress on tobacco control:

‘Alongside Ireland, New York, Canada and Australia, the last British Labour government showed leadership in bringing about real change on tobacco control.’

‘We introduced the smoking ban in pubs and enclosed spaces, established universal access to stop smoking services, ended sports sponsorship and billboard advertising, raised the legal age of purchasing cigarettes and put graphic warnings on cigarette packs.’

‘We often had to push on with these policies against industry and public opinion.’ 

For more information, please contact Gabe Trodd 0207 219 4426.

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