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House of Commons

Friday 11 February 1994

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Ethnic Minorities

9.34 am

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) : I beg leave to present a petition on behalf of 500 of my constituents in Cambridge. I should explain that the petition is a little unusual, in that the top page is written in English but the rest of the pages are in either Cantonese, Bengali or Gujerati. That is because of the cuts in section 11 funding, which will disadvantage my constituents and their families. The petition says :

To the House of Commons. The petition of residents of Cambridge and elsewhere. Declares that the proposed Home Office cuts in section 11 funding will disadvantage our children who currently receive help at school funded by Section 11 money. Our Education Authority has no money to replace that which will no longer come from Government. This means that spending in Cambridgeshire will be cut from the current £2,000,000 for 1993-94 to only £1,000,000 in 1995/96. The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Home Secretary to repeal the decision to cut Section 11 funding.

To lie upon the Table.

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Orders of the Day

Tobacco Advertising Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

9.36 am

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I wish to thank the co-sponsors of the Bill, for without their support its passage to Second Reading would have been immeasurably more difficult.

I also wish to record the support of two friends of the House whose loss we have had to bear in recent weeks. I know that, like me, Members on both sides of the House regret their absence. Jo Richardson, the late Member of Parliament for Barking, in spite of being so ill, wrote to me on 24 January saying that she would certainly vote with me today, but would have to be nodded through the Division Lobby ; and Jimmy Boyce, the late Member of Parliament for Rotherham, had pledged his support for the Bill. I hope that the House can quickly conclude the business today to allow time for many Members who are travelling to Rotherham to be in time for Jimmy's memorial service, which is being held later today.

The Bill has been brought before the House because it is an essential public health measure, one which was first recommended to the Government in 1962 by the Royal College of Physicians, when it published its first report on the health effects of smoking. Since then, both Labour and Conservative parties have occupied the Government Benches, and we still await a total ban on tobacco advertising and promotion.

Since 1962, according to the Royal College of Physicians, more than 4 million citizens of the United Kingdom have died from lung cancer, heart diseases, stroke, emphysema and other diseases caused by smoking. The House now has a real chance to put to an end the promotion of the cause of those diseases.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : The hon. Member mentioned the Conservative and Labour parties. Does he think that it might be helpful if there was a register of interests of the leaders of parties who smoke? I know that the leader of the Labour party does not smoke, and we know that the Prime Minister does not smoke, but I believe that the leader of the Liberal Democrats is a smoker. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that that will contribute to the debate?

Mr. Barron : The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) should wait to see what the Bill is about before he makes such ill-informed comments. This is not a party political issue. Those who have died and who continue to die from diseases caused by smoking were or are supporters of all political parties. The children who are being recruited to smoking--500 every day on average--have parents who support all political parties. This is an issue of public health and, as such, should not divide the House.

I have had several letters from interested parties suggesting that the Bill is about banning smoking or banning freedom. The Bill is not about banning smoking. Adult smokers who are properly informed of the dangers of smoking have a right to smoke, provided that they do not

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cause harm to other people. However, the individual right to smoke does not extend to children, and it does not extend to the unrestricted advertising and promotion of the product.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : Some 400 or 500 of my constituents are employed by Gallaghers ; I have no commercial interest of my own. I do not smoke, and I have caned children for smoking because I do not believe that children should smoke-- [Interruption.] Let it be noted. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) rightly says that people must have the freedom to choose whether to smoke. Why does he object to the argument of the Pre-School Playgroups Association, which talks of advertising freedom? It is an important freedom, and it must be wrong to dictate to advertisers. I wait to be convinced.

Mr. Barron : I am coming to that point now. If the House gives me 10 minutes in which to explain what the Bill is about, I shall be more than pleased to give way to any hon. Member who wants to ask about the intention of the Bill.

There is no fundamental right to advertise and promote products in our society. It is a commercial privilege to advertise--a privilege that carries certain responsibilities. The advertising and promotion of tobacco products is already banned on radio and television, and is further restricted by clauses in the voluntary agreement. The argument against a ban on tobacco advertising has already been conceded. It was conceded in this country in 1965 when we took cigarette advertising off television. I hope, therefore, that the House is clear what the Bill is not about.

I now come to what the Bill is about. Clause 1 makes it an offence to publish or cause to be published an advertisement for a tobacco product. The object of the Bill is to put an end to the promotion of an addictive and dangerous drug ; half-measures are not enough. The definition needs to cover not only posters and press advertisements, but publicity linked to sponsorship of events and other such devices for getting round a ban. That is the fundamental aim of the Bill. Under clause 1(2), some point of sale advertising is exempted. Point of sale advertising is allowed for specialist tobacconists, but it must not be visible from outside the shop. For the ordinary retailer, who also sells sweets and comics to children, the Bill states that only a notice of brands and their prices, complete with a health warning, is permissible.

The Bill also gives a definition of what is meant by an advertisement for a tobacco product. The wide definition in clause 1(6) covers

"any form of communication which might reasonably be considered to promote smoking."

Subsection (7) gives guidance on how to interpret that definition. The wide definition is vital, and experience abroad shows why. One would scarely know that there was a ban on tobacco advertising in Italy, as tens of million of pounds are spent every year on television commercials and other promotions for Marlboro shirts and Camel watches.

One has to read the small print on television screens to see that one Marlboro advertisement is purportedly for racing helmets for grand prix drivers. I do not believe that Italy is a nation of grand prix drivers. Such advertisements are the means of getting round advertising bans.

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Tobacco companies sponsor sports and arts events, not as an act of corporate generosity, but as an advertising opportunity. M. Whitehead from Gallagher International said :

"Sports sponsorship is a form of advertising which enables us to introduce glamour and excitement."

A Rothmans spokesman said :

"No one hands over big cheques just to give themselves a warm fuzzy feeling."

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Barron : I will give way in a minute. I want first to address some of the comments made about the Bill this week by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle).

The tobacco industry spends about £8 million a year on sponsorship. It is limited to that amount by the current voluntary agreement. That figure represents about 3 per cent. of commercial sponsorship of sport and should not be too difficult to replace. It was the Government supported by the hon. Gentleman who, in 1985, introduced the restrictions on sports advertising precisely because Gallagher International and others were using sport to promote tobacco.

Mr. Carlisle : The hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members should make two points clear from the start. First, is the Bill part of Labour party policy? There seems to be some disparity of opinion between the hon. Gentleman, his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) and his hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam).

The Labour party did not mention a ban on advertising in its manifesto or in its charter for sport. Are Labour Members now saying that it is party policy that sports promotion by tobacco companies will be banned under a future Labour Government?

Secondly, is the hon. Gentleman--

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. Interventions should, by their nature, be short. That intervention is long enough.

Mr. Barron : It is interesting that the hon. Member for Luton, North seems to have become a custodian of Labour party policy. He seems to have stepped away from the position in party politics that I thought he held.

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening earlier, because I said that the Bill was a private Member's Bill. The only people I consulted before introducing the Bill were those concerned about public health. Whether the Bill is part of Labour party policy is not a matter for me. It is an issue of public health, and I believe that that should override all party politics in the House.

The Test and County Cricket Board has written to me recently saying that it is opposed to a ban on sports sponsorship by tobacco companies. The letter may have been prompted by a radio interview I gave a few days ago. Although the board may be opposed to a ban, it has previously said that other sponsors could be found to take the place of Benson and Hedges. Its spokesman, Peter Smith, said in an article in the Yorkshire Post in May 1971 :

"We get a number of inquiries asking when a contract comes to an end. I expect we would be able to sell the Benson and Hedges again to a new sponsor."

Similarly, David Harrison, the chief executive of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association said in the same article :

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"If we had to replace our tobacco sponsor, we believe we could do so".

A number of other options are clearly becoming available. Perhaps the new national lottery could provide a valuable bridge. I want hon. Members to remember that only 3 per cent. of sports sponsorship is tobacco advertising. The Bill would not prejudice sport. I have been active in sport in an amateur capacity for most of my life, and I watch one of the finest football teams in Great Britain--Rotherham United. It is a non- smoking club ; that is its policy. We do not need smoking to be involved in sport.

The consequence of the wide definition of tobacco advertising, especially taken with the wide definition of the word "published" in English law, is that the Bill excludes innocent activities such as mentioning the name "Rothmans" in a conversation. That might otherwise be penalised. Clause 1(3) sets out the circumstances in which an offence will not be committed. Paragraph (a) exempts personal, unpaid endorsements of a tobacco product in conversation or letters and the like.

Paragraph (b) exempts communications that are not paid for by the tobacco industry and do not aim to promote a specific tobacco product. That covers journalism and innocent republications of tobacco advertisements in health, educational or historical contexts and the like. Sub-paragraph (c) exempts trade advertisements. Tobacco manufacturers would still be allowed to advertise to the retail trade. Sub-paragraph (d) exempts small-scale imports of foreign publications. Sub-paragraph (e) exempts materials produced in the United Kingdom for export.

In both sub-paragraphs (d) and (e), the limit is set at 5 per cent. of the total number of copies, or 1,000 copies, whichever is the lower. I recognise that that would be a point of debate if the Bill became law, and at some later stage I would be prepared to consider that issue.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham) : Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, if his Bill becomes law, it will be a devastating blow to health education? Is he aware that 17 per cent. of the space on most posters is taken up by the Government health warning and, in many cases, the message of the other 83 per cent. of the space is so obscure that one does not even know what product is advertised? He claims that £100 million a year is spent by the tobacco companies. Therefore, it could be suggested that £17 million will be lost to health education, which is 1.7 times as much as the Health Education Authority spends on preventing the promotion of tobacco.

Mr. Barron : I shall move on to that subject, but I agree with two words of the hon. Gentleman's intervention : "so obscure". Paragraph (4) of clause 1 recognises a difficulty that would otherwise arise from the ban of indirect advertising using tobacco names or non-tobacco goods. As far as I see, it would affect one company only--Alfred Dunhill Ltd., which began as a luxury goods business and has remained so, but which has licensed its name to a tobacco company for many years. The paragraph will allow Alfred Dunhill Ltd. to continue to advertise its luxury goods but will not, of course, allow Rothmans International plc to advertise Dunhill cigarettes.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark) : On a point of clarification, would the Dunhill masters golf championships be able to continue?

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Mr. Barron : That is sports sponsorship, and it would be stopped. Did not the hon. Gentleman hear what I said earlier in relation to sports sponsorship?

Paragraph (5) provides transitional exemptions, and would allow a year's grace for permanent structures of advertisements such as those at Piccadilly circus. Clause 1 covers the great majority of tobacco promotion, but clause 2 deals with free samples, coupon schemes, gifts and other promotions that tobacco companies use. I do not know whether any Conservative Members have ever been to Silk Cut discos, which are promoted to encourage young kids to get to know product names.

To sum up the rest of the Bill, clause 3 provides powers for the Secretary of State to make further regulations if anybody is trying to avoid the implications of the Bill. Clause 4 lays down the penalties and the policing of it, clause 5 gives a simple definition of a tobacco product, and clauses 6 and 7 deal with the usual formalities.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : I agree that this is a cross- party Bill, but will the hon. Gentleman accept that, in Northern Ireland, there 17 times more victims of tobacco-related diseases than of terrorism? Is it possible that those Conservative Members who are objecting to the Bill are reflecting the view of a former Secretary of State who talked about an "acceptable level of violence"?

Mr. Barron : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It sums up the crux of the Bill and what it fundamentally attacks in public health in the United Kingdom. Why ban tobacco advertising? While adult smoking rates are falling, smoking rates in children are not. In 1982, according to the Office of Population, Census and Statistics, 35 per cent. of adults were regular smokers, and by 1992, the figure had fallen to 28 per cent.--a significant improvement.

For 15-year-olds in 1982, regular smokers made up 24 per cent. of the population and 23 per cent. in 1992. There has been no real change. By the age of 15, eight out of 10 people who become regular adult smokers have begun smoking. It is clearly not a mature decision that those people reach. At a rate of 500 per day, those children are replacing the smokers who quit or die.

Much research has been conducted on the factors that influence the uptake and maintenance of smoking by children. The major influences include smoking by parents and friends, health education, the price of tobacco, its availability and advertising and promotion. I shall take each of those in turn.

There is a limit on what the House can do about the smoking behaviour of parents and friends of would-be smokers. The House has made appropriations to support health education on smoking, and the Government have anounced a new programme targeted at parents, which will cost £4 million each year for the next three years. Although that expenditure is welcome, it is small compared with the £100 million spent every year on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Barron : In a few minutes.

The Government's long-standing record on price policy is commendable, especially in the light of the Chancellor's latest commitment to increase tobacco duties by at least 3

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per cent. a year in real terms in future. However, price policy alone will not work. It has not worked to reduce teenage smoking rates--15-year-olds smoke as much today as they did 10 years ago.

Mr. Thurnham : The hon. Gentleman comes from a northern consitutency, so he will be aware of the "Reg" campaign. Does he agree that that was in breach of the voluntary code and was targeted at children? All those advertisements plastered on billboards near schools must have had an effect on children.

Mr. Barron : Since I am from a northern constituency, the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to know that I shall be mentioning "Reg" and the Advertising Standards Authority later.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : Would the hon. Gentleman address two points before he moves on? First, does he agree that his Bill is a private Member's Bill, that it is not a matter for party politics, and that the House should be clear on that? Secondly, does he agree that his Bill is sincerely aimed at reducing and stopping the take-up of smoking among 15- year-olds and those below that age? If he does agree, it is a wholly laudable, key aim to the Bill, since, if those 15-year-olds smoke for 40 years and do not die of heart disease or lung cancer, they are likely to become respiratory cripples.

Mr. Barron : The hon. Gentleman's intervention identifies the main issues of public health, especially that of young and vulnerable children, which are addressed by the Bill.

The third reason for young people smoking concerns availability, by which I mean the illegal sales of tobacco to children under 16. That issue has been addressed and was initiated by the private Member's Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). That Bill was warmly supported by the House, and has been admirably backed by the imaginative initiatives of Parents Against Tobacco and the Health Education Authority, with the full support of the Secretary of State for Health.

There is too much evidence for me to review of the influence that tobacco advertising has on consumption by young people. The most recent comprehensive review of the evidence was undertaken by the Department of Health and its chief economic advertiser, Dr. Clive Smee.

The Smee report found that tobacco advertising affected total consumption, not just brand share. There were 68 statistically significant results which pointed to a connection between advertising spending and tobacco consumption and only two indicating the opposite. The report also found that countries with stronger controls on advertising for the purpose of protecting public health and not trade monopolies tended to have lower consumption of tobacco. The report found that, in individual countries, the balance of evidence based on a study of the relationship between advertising spending and consumption over time showed that advertising had a positive effect on consumption.

When enough detailed evidence was gathered for a proper study, it was found that in four countries, advertising bans--excluding the effects of other factors--produced a significant drop in consumption. In Canada,

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tobacco consumption fell by 4 per cent., in New Zealand by 5.5 per cent., in Finland by 6.7 per cent., and in Norway by 9 per cent.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East) : The hon. Gentleman rightly quotes the Smee report, which includes some of the arguments that he has advanced. Does he concede that page 15 of the Smee report states that, although some other studies have found statistically significant links between advertising and consumption, his study failed to do so? Is it not about time that proponents of an advertising ban quoted accurately from the Smee report?

Mr. Barron : Before I end my speech, I shall quote not only from the Smee report, but from a Government publication that the hon. Gentleman received this week about the implications of the Smee report on public health.

Other figures that I have received this week--not represented in the Smee report--showed that the drop in tobacco consumption following advertising bans in France was 5.2 per cent. and in Australia 6 per cent.

Mr. Hugh Bayley (York) : I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that, in the conclusion to the report, Clive Smee, the Government chief health economist, said :

"The balance of evidence thus supports the conclusion that advertising does have a positive effect on consumption."

He reviewed the position in other countries and concluded : "In each case the banning of advertising was followed by a fall in smoking on a scale which cannot reasonably be attributed to other factors."

Does he agree that it is possible for Conservative Members to pick odd sentences from the report, but the key factor is to study its conclusions and those of the Government chief health economist? They conclude that there is a link between advertising and smoking.

Mr. Barron : I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. We should also consider the Government view on the Smee report, and the material that they have published this week.

It is not difficult to conclude that, if similar effects were seen in the United Kingdom following an advertising ban, between 4,400 and 9,900 premature deaths from tobacco-related diseases could be avoided each year. As the effects of an advertising ban would be expected to work with other programmes designed to reduce smoking, the reductions in deaths might be even greater.

Critics of an advertising ban say that advertising does not influence consumption and has no effect on children. The evidence suggests otherwise. A study conducted by MORI for the Health Education Authority in 1990 found that children smoked the most heavily advertised brands at higher rates than among adults. In 1990, £15 million was spent advertising Benson and Hedges and 47 per cent. of 11 to 14-year-olds chose that brand compared with 21 per cent. of adult smokers. Embassy spent £10 million, and was chosen by 22 per cent. of child smokers compared with 15 per cent of adult smokers. Silk Cut spent £9.9 million and was chosen by 29 per cent. of child smokers and 12 per cent. of adult smokers. Marlboro spent £5 million and was chosen by 13 per cent. of child smokers and 4 per cent. of adult smokers. In each case, a greater proportion of child smokers than adult smokers preferred the most heavily advertised brands.

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The Advertising Association sent a booklet to all Members of Parliament this week, claiming that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys had found that some of the most important factors in the uptake of smoking were, first, being a girl, secondly, having brothers or sisters who smoked, thirdly, having parents who smoked and fourthly, having relatively less negative views about smoking. It is understandable that children should have negative views about smoking. It would seem that the advice of parents, teachers and health education campaigns are having an effect. How does a child acquire a less negative view on smoking? What instruments exist that help to form their opinions? Clearly, advertising is important in the formation of less negative views on smoking, and the Advertising Association has been damned by its own booklet.

A research study from Australia found that, while teacher-led education programmes can reduce the rate of smoking by up to 6 per cent., advertising encourages it in both sexes by about 15 per cent. Tobacco advertising works against education. That is obvious if one looks at the matter in any detail.

There is unacceptable competition for the hearts and lungs of our children if tobacco advertisers spend £10 for every £1 spent by health educators. It is a disadvantage, and it should not continue. We should either increase expenditure on education on the dangers of smoking to the level spent by the tobacco industry, or we should get rid of the counter- education. If we do not, smokers will continue to be recruited from our children at the current rate.

My constituency of Rother Valley provides a good example, as do those of other hon. Members. There are about 1,300 15-year-olds in my constituency, of whom about 300 are regular smokers. If they keep smoking and stay brand- loyal for the rest of their lives, which is what the tobacco companies want them to do, at least one in three, or about 100, will die from cancer, heart disease or other diseases caused by smoking.

No other threat of that size, including those posed by hard drugs, alcohol and motor vehicles, faces the children in the Rother Valley or in any other constituency. For every 1 per cent. reduction in consumption in the Rother Valley, one premature death will be prevented. Across the country, a 1 per cent. fall in tobacco could be expected to prevent 1,100 premature deaths. The House should be proud to be responsible for lessening smoke-related deaths.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : The hon. Gentleman enjoys widespread and strong support on both sides of the House. Is he aware that eight directors of health in the Mersey region have issued figures that show that of the 480,000 children, some 80,000 of them--one in six--are likely to die of smoking-related diseases? Hon. Members should take notice of those statistics, and not the blandishments of the advertising industry.

Mr. Barron : I agree with every word that the hon. Gentleman said. Monday's Government press release on the voluntary agreement is full of inconsistencies--I hope that the Minister does not mind me saying that. In that release, the Minister referred to effective and long-standing voluntary agreements that have "served us well". It goes on to say that the agreement is to be strengthened. Why does it need

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to be strengthened if it has worked so well? It does not work well, and has not. Children's smoking rates have not changed in the past 10 years.

The voluntary agreement covers women's magazines. It prohibits cigarette advertising in magazines

"whose primary readership is women in the age range from 15 to 24 years."

Despite that, tobacco advertisers still promote the leading cause of lung cancer among more than 7 million female readers of other magazines. They do so at a time when female lung cancer death rates are rising and have overtaken breast cancer death rates as the no. 1 cause of cancer death in some parts of the United Kingdom. It borders on lunacy to continue to allow the promotion of a major cause of an increasing epidemic of lung cancer in women. When asked about that, the advertising industry ducks for cover and says, "We cannot possibly comment, because we are not health experts." As long as the industry can continue to advertise cigarettes, it does not care. Recently, there has been the appalling farce of Reg', a comic character used to promote Regal cigarettes in the north of England, Scotland and Wales. Despite warnings 12 months ago from Action on Smoking and Health and Campaign about Reg's popular appeal to children, the Advertising Standards Authority did nothing about the Reg' campaign until it was confronted with excellent research commissioned at a cost of £20,000 by the Health Education Authority. That research showed that Reg was recognised by 91 per cent. of children as promoting cigarettes, but that he was recognised by only 48 per cent. of adults. He was twice as popular with children. The ASA recommended that the Reg' campaign be withdrawn, and Imperial Tobacco, the maker of Regal, apparently obliged. In fact, at the press conference that I held to announce my intention to introduce the Bill, it was mentioned to me for the first time that Reg' was going to be withdrawn because of what was happening with the campaign in certain parts of Britain.

One month later, a mother from Cardiff brought to my attention an advertisement for the Reg' Welsh snooker challenge. That advertisement was given to her in a busy shopping centre, when many children were present. On her behalf, I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, and last week I was advised that that campaign was the only exemption because the promotion had commenced before the ASA's ruling in December.

Last week, we found billboards in the same areas of Britain where Reg' is well known by children--that is, Scotland, the north of England and Wales-- advertising "a farewell address". The advertisement is in the same colour and in the same style as the previous Reg' campaign.

On Monday morning, I was involved in a discussion on Radio Leeds. The presenter of the programme, Stephen Le Fevre, questioned Caroline Crawford from the Advertising Standards Authority about the new campaign that had come about in the north. As for the farewell address, Le Fevre said :

"It has got Reg' in there--are they not just making a fool of your recommendations?"

Caroline Crawford replied :

"Certainly, they are in a way, saying goodbye to the Reg' campaign."

People are flouting a sensible interpretation of the code, or the code is so defective that all that one has to do is to remove Reg's face from a poster, and the poster falls within the voluntary agreement.

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How long will it before young people do not recognise that advertising campaign? How many others will be encouraged to smoke? It has been confirmed this week that removing the face from the poster enables the poster to be within the voluntary agreement, and that will make fools of us, the voluntary agreements and the Advertising Standards Authority for ever and a day. The campaign is also making a fool of attempted restriction.

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