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Lung Cancer (Cigarette Smoking)

Volume 655: debated on Monday 12 March 1962

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12.

asked the Minister of Health what further action he will take to supplement the efforts of local authorities in publicising the danger of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking.

38.

asked the Minister of Health if he has studied the new evidence contained in the report of the Royal College of Physicians, a copy of which has been sent to him, on the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer; and what action he now proposes to take to deal with the problem of lung cancer.

43.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the new evidence on smoking in relation to cancer of the lung contained in the report of the Royal College of Physicians, a copy of which has been sent to him, what further action he now proposes to take to deal with lung cancer.

44.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the new evidence on the relation between smoking and health contained in the report of the Royal College of Physicians, a copy of which has been sent to him, what action he now proposes to take to safeguard health in this respect.

51.

asked the Minister of Health if he has studied the report of the Royal College of Physicians entitled "Smoking and Health", a copy of which has been sent to him; and what action he proposes to take to deal with the problem of lung cancer in the light of this new evidence.

55.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the concern of tobacco workers in Nottingham, following the publication of the fresh information contained in the report of the Royal College of Physicians on smoking and lung cancer, a copy of which has been sent to him, what steps he now proposes to take to implement the report's recommendations on health education.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are asking local health authorities to use all their channels of health education to make the conclusions of the report widely known and to make clear to the public the dangers to health of smoking, particularly of cigarettes. We shall be giving them guidance and providing them with publicity material. We are also consulting with the Central and Scottish Councils for Health Education about ways in which they can help. As regards health education in the schools, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is answering a Question today.

That is the same kind of evasive reply as I had when I raised the matter on the Adjournment on 1st March, 1957. In the light of the devastating report by the Royal College of Physicians, should not the Government be doing much more practical work to discourage youngsters from starting smoking, and is it not a farce to expect the local authorities on a few hundreds of £s a year to counteract the £11 million worth of tobacco advertising carried on every year, much of which is specially directed to persuading young people to smoke?

There is no direct com parability between the sum spent by local health authorities and the sums spent on advertising—

I said that there was no direct comparability, and I am glad that the hon. Member agrees—but this report is undoubtedly an extremely valuable and powerful weapon in the hands of health education which the Government will now be actively supporting. The other suggestions made in the report of the Royal College are under consideration by the Government.

Does the Minister think that the cigarette manufacturers spent this £11 million a year on advertising without it having some effect? Will he urge within the Cabinet that the report's recommendations be supported and carried out? I understand that the effects of the recommendations are being carried out in Sweden.

The control of advertising is one of the suggestions in the report, which I have said are under consideration.

May I ask the Minister two questions arising from his reply. First, bearing in mind that £5,000 was spent over the past five years on warning people of the dangers of smoking compared with £38 million spent on advertising the virtues of smoking, can he tell us a little more about the likely scope of the publicity which he will make available to local authorities? Secondly, can he assure us that his Ministry will step up its investigations into anti-smoking tablets, which can be procured under the National Health Service?

I shall be providing local health authorities with free publicity material, and I shall be in consultation with them and with the Central Council for Health Education as to the most effective form which that material might take. I have under consideration the suggestion of anti-smoking clinics which is made in the Royal College's report. I have in mind that experiments might be made in that direction.

Am I right in assuming that my right hon. Friend accepts the report unreservedly? If so, in the guidance which is to go out from his Department to local authorities, is he asking the local authorities to let him know what action they are, in fact, taking? Are we to have a little more evidence given to us about what action is taken as a result of the guidance and not just have the matter left as a nebulous statement that he has issued the guidance?

I will keep closely in touch with local health authorities on this matter. The Government certainly accept that the report demonstrates authoritatively and crushingly the causal connection between smoking and king cancer and the more general hazards to health of smoking.

Did the Minister notice the observation in the report that the public has not taken this threat seriously in the past very largely because of the results of Government action? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind in future and not leave local health authorities to do the educational work out of their limited resources? In addition, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is particularly responsible in dissuading young people from contracting this habit? Will he discuss with the Postmaster-General the possibility of controlling television advertising on smoking, which is directed at young people?

The question of television advertising, as of advertising generally, is dealt with in the suggestions made in the report which, as I have said, are under consideration by the Government. I have no doubt, however, that, apart from the steps to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, the health education work of local health authorities will have young people very much in mind. Health education work is undoubtedly one of the most effective channels for getting this message over in the right places, and I shall certainly give it every support I can.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed in the report the comparison between the growth of smoking in a country which does not permit advertising and in this country which does permit it? Would not he agree, however, that in the last five years, despite the excellent material put out by the Central Council for Health Education, many local health authorities and local education authorities have not done what they should have done? Finally, does my right hon. Friend agree that the best method of propaganda is parental example?

I noticed the reference in the report to the example of Czechoslovakia. Obviously, that is one of the things which has to be taken into consideration in regard to the suggestion of the Royal College. There is no doubt about the importance of parental example or about the desirability of the health education effort being, at least in part, directed towards parental example. I believe that the publication of this report will give a great impetus to the work of health authorities in this matter, which T have said I intend to support in every way I can.

Since so much of the propaganda in favour of smoking is directed towards teen-age schoolchildren, will the Minister consult the Minister of Education with a view to circulating a summary of this report to senior forms in schools?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at the reply of my right hon. Friend, which I foreshadowed in my Answer.

On a point of order. This is the first time for many days that I, no doubt like other hon. Members, have seen the sun. Why is it that it has now been shut out by the blinds being drawn?

I suspect that it is to assist the accuracy of my eye, in which it shines.