Last week in the chamber I was pleased that I had the opportunity to ask Steve Brine MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, about the new Tobacco Control Plan and how it will be implemented in rural communities.
We can be proud that Britain is already a world leader in tobacco control and significant advances have been made in recent years in preventing the uptake of smoking and in reducing its harm. Smoking rates among adults and young people are at their lowest level ever; however, we still have a long way to go. This is illustrated by the startling statistic from Macmillan Cancer Support which found that there are more than 70,000 more new cases of cancer each year in the UK than there are new marriages.
Locally, fewer people are smoking but we must contend with the fact that Wealden has the highest number of smoking-related deaths per year within East Sussex as well as an above average incidence of new cancers and cancer related-deaths compared to the rest of England. Given this, it is vital that the Tobacco Control Plan serves our varied community effectively. Access to support when quitting smoking must be equal regardless of where you live, whether that be a small rural village or a busy market town.
The Tobacco Control Plan will seek to build on previous successes and aims to support more smokers in quitting smoking, reduce the number of young people taking up smoking and ensure that current tobacco legislation is properly enforced. In order to support these aims, the government has pledged £16bn of funding to councils by 2021.
East Sussex County Council will be responsible for designing our local Tobacco Control Plan which will mean that they will have the flexibility to consider the best course of action to meet the unique needs of our area. I will be sure to work with the Council to see that Wealden benefits fully from the Plan and, in the coming years, I am determined to make it a healthier place for us all to live and work.