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Solvent Sniffing

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the increasing number of young persons indulging in solvent sniffing which endangers life and limb, if he will set up an inquiry into the practice as a health hazard.

No, Sir. There is no doubt that the practice of solvent sniffing is a serious hazard to health. My right hon. Friend is considering whether existing arrangements for education, detection and the provision of any necessary medical and social care might be improved.

Has the attention of my hon. Friend been drawn to the regrettable increase in the number of persons who indulge in this dangerous practice, of which there is ample evidence? Does he not think that it is about time that some sort of campaign was launched involving all the respective services, especially the general practitioners, the clinics and the hospital services, with a view to giving the unfortunates who participate the maximum protection against evils that can seriously endanger their minds, their health and their very lives?

The factual position is that recently notifications have declined. The picture is rather patchy. In some areas there has been an increase, but in most areas there has been a decline. The overall position is that the number of notifications has declined. We must get the right balance between excessive publicity and health education. My view is that we can solve the problem only by a fairly extensive programme of health education. That is the course that we intend to follow.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that something could be done through the schools, especially in senior classes, where the problem is fairly prevalent? Some attention at that age level might be useful.

I accept that the education system has a part to play. That is one of the areas that we are examining.