Yesterday in the Commons we were asked to decide whether or not to ban smoking in cars where there is a child present.
It is a shocking fact that 85 percent of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by smoking and is by far the most preventable cause of cancer. Evidence has shown that children who breathe in second hand smoke have an increased risk of developing asthma, meningitis and hearing loss. Cot death is twice as likely in babies whose mothers smoke. Worryingly, children who grow up with a family member who smoke are also twice as likely to smoke later in life.
Smoking affects my area more than most and smoking related deaths in the local area stand at a startling 260 per 100,000 of the population. This is not just a statistic; these are mums, dads and grandparents across our area dying each year due to smoking.
The prevalence of lung cancer in the area I represent is also much higher than the national average, standing at 65.9 per 100,000 and costing the local NHS £20.1 million; a cost that’s too high for the families that loose loved ones.
Labour called for this ban in the House of Lords but what has laid most heavily on my conscience and informed the way I voted in this important debate is the conversations I have had with constituents who have lost loved ones due to lung cancer.
We cannot ignore the fact that something needs to be done. As Cancer Research UK reports, smoking is an addiction that mainly takes hold in childhood, with eight in ten smokers starting by the age of 19 and more than 4.5 million taking up the habit before the age of 16. There are a number of evidenced-based measures that Labour has called for the government to act on. Most notably we have called for the introduction of plain packaging and believe that there is already clear evidence that it would make smoking less attractive to young people, make health warnings more effective and refute the utter falsehood that some brands are safer than others.
But we can be optimistic that things are changing, according to ASH (Action for Smoking and Health) the level of smoking in the UK is on the decline. We can also be proud of our health service which is working hard to ensure that people have access to early diagnosis and optimal treatment. Because of this ethos we have seen that the one year survival rate for all cancer is very close to the national average (67.1% compared to 67.7%). Cancer Research UK has also noted that the area has comparatively good one year survival rates and my constituents have good access to treatment.
Although this is positive news and whilst there is still a need for greater awareness of smoking and its impact within my constituency, it remains a fact that smoking related deaths in the area I represent are at a higher than the national average. It is for this reason that I voted for the ban.