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Volume 402: debated on Thursday 3 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many smokers there are in the UK population; and what evaluation he has made of the resultant cost to the NHS per individual. [102655]

[holding answer 19 March 2003]: There were an estimated 12.7 million smokers in the United Kingdom in 2001.In 1997, the latest year for which there is data, it was estimated that treating illness and disease caused by smoking costs the national health service in England up to£ 1.7 billion every year in terms of general practitioner visits, prescriptions, treatment and operations

1 . No comparable information is available for the remainder of the UK.

It is not possible to provide a meaningful estimate of the cost to the NHS per smoker from these data, as costs are incurred not just for current smokers but also for ex-smokers and those affected by passive smoking.

1 Buck D., Godfrey C., .Parrott S., Raw M., University of York Centre for Health Economics. "Cost effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions". London: Health Education Authority, 1997.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce legislation to ban smoking in restaurants. [101914]

The Government wants to increase the number of smoke-free environments. We have worked closely with the hospitality trade to develop a Public Places Charter designed provide customers with clear information on the type of smoking policy operating in a particularestablishment and allow them to make an informed choice.As part of ensuring people have the information to make an informed choice we are developing education and information resources to raise awareness and understanding of the risks associated with passive smoking.This includes increasing the visibility of health messages highlighting to smokers the risks environmental tobacco smoke presents. This is through regulations to transpose into UnitedKingdom law the European Union directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products. These regulations require tobacco products to carry larger and starker health warnings, on both the front and back of the packet. The dangers of passive smoking are highlighted in two of the new warnings, which include "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" and "Protect children: don't make them breathe your smoke" The contents of tobacco smoke are also highlighted in a warning saying, "Smoke contains benzene, nitrosomines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide".

We are also encouraging all employers to introduce smoke-free work places. This year the Department is funding local tobacco control alliances across England to carry out projects in close co-operation with local employers to tackle passive smoking and to increase the number of smoke-free environments. These projects vary in nature from the production of smoke-free guides to pubs and restaurants to the provision of advice and support to managers wishing to introduce policies. We hope that many will be suitable for national application.