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Tobacco Smoking

Volume 983: debated on Friday 25 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what assessment he has made of the medical evidence regarding the respective damage to health caused by the smoking of equal numbers of high tar, medium tar and low tar cigarettes respectively; and if he will make a statement.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health advises my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the scientific aspects of smoking and health. It maintains that no cigarette can ever be regarded as completely safe, and that if the dreadful toll of some 50,000 early deaths each year and much preventable illness is to be reduced then consumption of cigarettes must continue to go down. There is little evidence available yet on the effects on people who have smoked low tar cigarettes over a long period. The committee will continue to evaluate all the evidence on this as it becomes available and will report its findings to my right hon. Friends and me in due course.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give details of studies which have been carried out in the past year, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, into the effects on non-smokers of being with smokers and the damage it might do to their health.

Scientists at the University of California recently concluded from an extensive study of subjects attending a physical fitness course that:

" chronic exposure to tobacco smoke in the work environment is deleterious to the non-smoker and significantly reduces small airways function ".
I refer the hon. Member to the report which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (

302, 720–723) for a full account of this study, a copy of which I enclose for the hon. Member.

I know of no other study carried out in the past year.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much he plans to spend in the current year on activities related to the discouragement of cigarette smoking; and if he will provide figures on a similar basis to replies on education against alcohol abuse given, Official Report, 26 March, c. 609.

The Department has recently agreed to make a grant for 1980–81 of £80,000 to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Measures to discourage smoking will continue to feature in the Health Education Council's activities during the coming year, but it is not yet possible to identify separately the relevant expenditure. The sums spent under these heads during the preceding five years are as follows:

ASH grantHEC expenditure on smoking and campaigns
* Estimated.
Advice designed to discourage smoking is also included in the tar and nicotine tables which the Department produces to inform smokers about the tar and nicotine yields of the various brands of cigarettes.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what information he has on the numbers of cigarettes sold in the United Kingdom in the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available; and what were the comparable sales in the same 12-month period in each of the previous 10 years.

The tobacco industry's estimate of the number of cigarettes sold in the United Kingdom in 1979 is 124,300 million. Comparable estimates for the previous 10 years are:


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimates have been made of the consumption pattern among smokers who switch to lower tar brand cigarettes; and what further reductions in the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide level of cigarettes are planned.

The changes which occur in smoking behaviour when smokers switch to lower tar brands are complex, and little can be said with certainty. There are, however, indications that some smokers who switch subsequently smoke more cigarettes or inhale more deeply.

Tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels are among the matters being considered in the context of our continuing discussions with the industry about what should follow the present voluntary agreement.