Letter: Action against smoking risks

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Chief Medical Officer's annual report, published last week, attracted considerable publicity over the disappointing progress on reduction in smoking levels, especially among young people. While smoking rates among adults are falling slowly, rates among children and teenagers have remained static over the last decade. Around 10 per cent of children between the ages of 11 and 15 are regular smokers.

Health of the Nation (the Government's health strategy for the population) sets challenging targets for reduction in premature deaths from coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, and recognises smoking as a major risk factor in these diseases. It is estimated that 111,000 people die prematurely every year in the UK as a result of smoking tobacco. The Government has set itself targets to reduce total cigarette consumption by 40 per cent by the year 2000, and to reduce smoking prevalence among 11- to 15-year- olds by at least 33 per cent by 1994 (ie, to less than 6 per cent).

Directors of Public Health from all 14 English regional health authorities believe further national action is needed if these targets are to be achieved. Action should include the elimination of tobacco advertising and promotion, which we are convinced does influence the recruitment of young smokers, and an increase in taxation on tobacco products in the forthcoming budget.

Fiscal policy is a vital part of a comprehensive national strategy to reduce tobacco use. The available evidence shows that tax increases on tobacco do reduce consumption, and, furthermore, have strong public support.

Yours faithfully,

Dr ROBERT HAWARD, director of Public Health, Yorkshire Regional Health Authority; Dr PAT TROOP, East Anglian; Dr STEPHEN HORSLEY, North Western; Dr RICHARD ALDERSLADE, Trent; Dr JOHN ASHTON, Mersey; Dr SIAN GRIFFITHS, South West Thames; Dr ALASTAIR MASON, South Western; Dr LIAM DONALDSON, Northern; Dr GABRIEL SCALLY, South East Thames; Professor ROD GRIFFITHS, West Midlands; Dr DEIRDRE CUNNINGHAM, North East Thames; Dr MUIR GRAY, Oxford; Dr SUE ATKINSON, Wessex; Dr SHEILA ADAM, North West Thames

Yorkshire Regional Health

Authority

Harrogate,

North Yorkshire

6 October

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