Written Answers. - Incidence of Asthma and Lung Cancer.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

81 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health the extent of the increasing incidences of asthma and lung cancer in Ireland; and the measures, if any, he has taken or can recommend the public to take to reduce such incidences. [915/94]

There is now international evidence to suggest that the incidence of asthma is increasing on a worldwide basis. A number of factors are thought to contribute to this, including environmental factors and allergies.

There are no figures currently available on the incidence of cancers in Ireland, however the recent establishment of the National Cancer Register will address this issue. While mortality figures available show a fall in lung cancer deaths since 1987, Irish figures still compare unfavourably with the EU average.

Various reports on both asthma and lung cancer highlight the need for health education, early diagnosis and treatment in minimising the incidence of both conditions.
In relation to asthma, my Department recognises the importance of information for the general public on prevention and early detection of this condition. Through the Health Promotion Unit ongoing support is given to the Asthma Society to enable them to engage in promotional campaigns.
With regard to lung cancer, this is one of the most preventable lifestyle related diseases in Ireland. Because of the strong links between the incidence of lung cancer and smoking the Health Promotion Unit spends a significant proportion of its total budget on anti-smoking campaigns. These include television and radio commercials, health promotion programmes in schools and support for a wide number of Irish Cancer Society initiatives.
Passive smoking is an area of increasing concern in regard to both asthma and lung cancer. Last month I launched an updated version of the Voluntary Code of Practice on Smoking in the Workplace entitled "Working together for cleaner air" with the support of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IBEC, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society. People who are exposed to passive smoking at work, particularly those with conditions such as asthma are subject to increased irritation and discomfort and there is now growing international data which links passive smoking and cancer. I am hopeful that the development of smoke free policies in the workplace will go some way to reducing these problems.
In general I have given the highest possible priority to the fight against cancer and this is reflected in the smoking target set in the Health StrategyShapping a Healthier Future which aims to reduce the percentage of people who smoke by at least 1 per cent per year so that by the year 2000 more than 80 per cent of the population will be non-smokers.