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Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, in the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease, published by the Government, smoking cessation clinics form an extremely important part. Does the limitation on the ability of those running such clinics to prescribe only one week's NRT to poorer smokers recognise the fact that every year smoking costs something like £1.5 billion to the NHS? In this millennium year, about 1.5 million are trying to give up smoking.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Myself included, my Lords. I believe that smoking cessation programmes are an important part of our general drive in relation to improving health in this country. On nicotine replacement therapy, in the current financial year we have focused on health action zones. The zones are able to offer one week's free use of NRT. Next year we shall extend that one week's free use to the rest of the country. Of course, we shall consider carefully the
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, will the Minister comment on a recent article in the British Medical Journal which said that smokers usually start out as children who are addicted to nicotine by the time they are adults? Can he say what efforts the Government are making to encourage people not to start smoking as opposed to giving up?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that is the other side of the coin. We are taking a number of measures to dissuade young people from taking up smoking, including the banning of tobacco advertising as soon as legal action by the tobacco industry permits; toughening up on the enforcement of legislation outlawing the sale of tobacco products to children; and conducting a campaign targeted at young people as part of the tobacco education campaign later this year.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, first, I must declare an interest as a quadruple bypass alumnus, whose vascular disease was probably caused by heavy smoking before I gave up on 31st July 1976. Have the Government reached any conclusion on the recommendation referred to in the BMJ's article as perhaps the most important in the report? The recommendation was for an independent expert committee to examine the institutional options for nicotine regulation and to report to the Secretary of State for Health on future regulation of nicotine products and the management and prevention of nicotine addiction in Britain. Is not that a recommendation that the Government can accept at once?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord on giving up smoking such a long time ago; I am extremely envious of him. Nicotine addiction and the scientific basis for concluding that nicotine delivered through tobacco smoke should be regarded as an addictive drug was an issue raised by the report of the Royal College of Physicians. We shall give consideration to that issue and also to the suggestion that in the labelling of tobacco products reference should be made to nicotine addiction.
However, in terms of smoking prevention we need a concerted programme of developments, including the banning of tobacco advertising, strong programmes to discourage young people from taking up the habit, and ensuring that those who do smoke and want to give up--as the noble Lord rightfully said is the position with many people in this country--are given the strongest possible support.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, in view of the Minister's admission, does he agree that many of those who do not smoke do not realise that it is an addiction? Yet some people have been known to say that heroin
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in relation to the use of the word "addiction" one must draw a balance in making available to smokers the stark facts in relation to the risks of their smoking. For instance, there is a suggestion from the Irish Government in relation to the labelling of tobacco products that reference should be made to nicotine addiction. We will bear that suggestion in mind. More generally, we need to evaluate the results of the use of NRT over the next year or so. It is worth remembering that the cost of purchasing NRT for one week roughly equates to the cost of buying a packet of 20 cigarettes.
The aim of allowing one week's free use by those who can claim prescription exemption is to give them a kick start alongside the professional advice that can be given to help people cease smoking. It is worth making the point also that we are the only country in the world providing free NRT. We have the right programme, but should evaluate the use of NRT over the next year or so.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, the Government fully recognise the concerns of minority faith communities which feel that they suffer religious discrimination and the calls for that to be made subject to the law. That is why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary took the positive step of commissioning research into this difficult and sensitive area. We have already published an interim report and expect the full findings of the research to be ready for publication in the autumn. They will help to develop the Government's approach to the issue.
Lord Janner: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, but does he accept that the Race Relations Act (rightly, I believe) bans discrimination against Jewish people such as myself, against Sikhs and against Rastafarians, but does not provide the same protection to Muslims, Hindus and the majority of people in this country who are Christians? Surely
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I fully accept that it is an anomaly. It is for that reason that the Government embarked on the process of conducting research in this area. I accept also that 2 million Muslims feel discriminated against by the operation of the law. It is an anomaly that crept in and one which we intend to tackle. That will be one of the fruits of the research when it is finally published in October. We shall have to look fully at the whole issue at that time.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the Minister's reply was helpful. How will the Government deal with breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998 now that it incorporates the convention rights set out in Articles 9, 13 and 14, which prohibit discrimination of any kind, particularly religious discrimination?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Human Rights Act will be helpful in this area of the law. That does not come into being until 2nd October this year. It will be a major step; it is a valuable initiative. I take the view that it will help to establish a new culture of rights and responsibilities within the UK law. It is something of which our Government are particularly proud. It will help and that, allied with the way we are reviewing discrimination legislation with regard to religion, will help to change the whole attitude in that field of policy.
Lord Elton: My Lords, has the Minister come across the surprising difficulty in the middle of all this, which is the near impossibility of defining what a religion is? As his department has not managed to define religion in the past 15 years, will he concentrate on preventing discrimination against known religious faiths rather than religious grounds as a concept?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an interesting part of the debate. I share with him the difficulties of defining exactly what religion is. We feel we understand it when confronted with it, but are never sure when someone comes up with another religion. It is a problem. It is something we shall need to consider when the research is published and no doubt we shall have to struggle to provide a definition. Other countries have encountered the same problems. I know that Germany's case law led that country into difficulties. We perhaps need to learn from the experience of our European Union partners in this matter.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree with me that the Islamophobia Commission report and the Islamic Human Rights Commission reports prove that there is religious discrimination against Muslims? Why therefore is it necessary to conduct further research before the Government introduce religious discrimination laws?
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