NHS to declare war on smoking

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DOCTORS ARE to be told to make action against smoking a priority in a dramatic shift of policy to be announced by the Government this week.

The Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, will allocate millions of pounds for treating smoking-related diseases and helping people to quit. A White Paper on smoking will also bring forward a proposed ban on tobacco advertising.

His department is to send advice to doctors telling them to target smoking as part of a national strategy to reduce the deaths it causes.

Clive Bates, director of Ash, the anti-smoking organisation, said: "Since the Second World War, smoking has killed six million people in Britain. It's about time that the NHS took this seriously."

Midwives and health visitors will be trained to give advice to help pregnant women to beat the habit. Only a quarter of pregnant smokers manage to give up. Nicorette patches will be given to the most needy.

The White Paper will set out policies banning tobacco advertising by 2000 and limiting the use of tobacco brand names on fashion goods, and a voluntary code restricting cigarette advertising in shops.

The Government wants to take the lead in pushing for an international convention on tobacco advertising and labelling to prevent cigarette companies moving to the Third World because of curbs in the West. Pubs and restaurants, as part of a voluntary code, will be urged to have no- smoking areas, and there will be tough new health and safety legislation banning smoking in the workplace, especially offices.