|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire) : There is confusion among hon. Members. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the ban on radio and television advertising of cigarettes and, more recently, cigars is not voluntary, but is a Government ban?
The essence of the cigarette code is :
"advertisements should not encourage people, particularly the young, to start smoking. People who already smoke should not be enticed to increase their level of smoking or to smoke to excess".
That objective is contradicted by the Government's action plan.
Mr. Thurnham : The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech. I am glad that he has started to comment more fully on the Reg' campaign. I have just received a note from Hansard, asking what the Reg' campaign stands for and to confirm the Reg' campaign. It is clear that people in the south of England are not familiar with that campaign.
They do not know the extent to which it is plastered over billboards, certainly in my constituency, near schools, and is clearly aimed at youngsters. There might be hon. Members who still do not understand exactly what the campaign is. It concerns a balding, somewhat absurd character who thinks-- [Interruption.] Perhaps I should leave it to the hon. Gentleman to continue his speech and make it clear exactly what Reg' means.
Mr. Barron : I gratefully accept that invitation. The hon. Gentleman correctly described Reg. He wants people to smoke Regal cigarettes. The first Reg advert showed a Regal cigarette packet, with Reg's finger covering the letters A and L. Reg says : "I smoke 'em because my name's on 'em."
He then went on to "party politics", did our character Reg. He said :
"If you drop ash on the carpet, you won't get invited again." We then go on to Reg on the greenhouse effect. He said : "My tomatoes seem to grow better under glass."
Reg on television :
"No, I'm not. I'm on a poster."
Reg on train spotting :
That is Reg's schoolground humour to induce young people to recognise that as cigarette advertising, and 91 per cent. of them do. Now we have everything but Reg. An advertisement shows a suitcase with a label stating "Dunadvertisin' Bognor Regis"--some people in the north might say "Bognor Reg's"--and it flouts anything that we can do to protect young people from tobacco. That is what voluntary agreements are delivering, and it is not good enough. We must protect young children.
Column 576When I explained the cigarette code, I said that it contradicted the Government's action plan. Paragraph 4.52 of the Smee report states :
"The review supports the Government view that there is a relationship between tobacco advertising and total tobacco consumption".
It further states :
"the Government believes that it would be desirable to take further steps to reduce the potential for tobacco advertising to encourage people to start smoking or to smoke more".
It is my firm belief, given the way that the voluntary agreement has failed to protect children from Reg, that the only way to ensure that tobacco advertisements do not have any influence on our children is to get rid of them. I invite hon. Members to join me, all the royal medical colleges, the National Consumer Council and, more important, the 60 per cent. of the British public who, in every survey, have said that they want to ban tobacco advertising. I invite hon. Members to join me not only in the Lobby today but throughout the passage of the Bill, so that we can provide proper protection for the nation, not the half-hearted protection that we have in voluntary codes.
Several hon. Members rose--
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. It must be clear that there is great interest in the Bill. Therefore, I ask succeeding speakers to be as brief as possible, so that as many hon. Members as possible may contribute.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : I must make it clear that I am the unpaid national chairman of the National Asthma Campaign. Although that is not a declarable interest, I do not want anybody to be under any misapprehension.
Let us stop some of the cackle. I congratulate the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) on bringing forward the Bill and on an extensive speech in which he dealt with many interruptions. In cutting the cackle, let us be in no doubt : smoking is unpleasant, it is dirty, it is physically dangerous, and now, with conclusive evidence of the effect of passive smoking, it is an anti-social habit when carried out in public.
Those are some of the basic reasons why we want to ensure that smoke decreases. No one supporting the Bill wishes to ban smoking--that must be left to individuals to decide. However, people should not be lulled into smoking by advertising that suggests that it is socially an advantage to smoke, that smoking makes young people become members of a peer group, that it somehow enhances a person's attraction to the opposite sex or, indeed, that it relieves stress. None of those things are true and they need to be nailed immediately.
In passing, I pay a tribute on the death of Josephine Richardson. I knew Josephine probably better than any other hon. Members in her early days because we fought our first political battle over a seat on the Hornsey borough council back in 1951. She was the thorn in my flesh when I was the chairman of the Hornsey housing committee for many years. She suffered a great deal in the latter part of her life but still gave service to the House, and hon. Members should give credit to her.
If what I previously suggested is not true, what is true? Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death. Hundreds of people die from smoking- related diseases every day. Smoking is also a major cause of serious ill health, and it is estimated that more than 250, 000
Column 577admissions to hospital every year are due to smoking-related illness. It is increasingly clear that smoking not only affects the health of those who smoke ; passive smoking has become a significant public health issue. Those are not my words ; they are the Government's words contained in a booklet.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : My right hon. Friend has talked about passive smoking and made some very dogmatic comments about it. Did he read the article in The Times this week which suggested that medically the evidence is less strong than he is dogmatically asserting?
Sir Peter Emery : I did not read the article in The Times. All I can say is that all the medical evidence on asthma--I can talk about that from personal experience--is that asthmatics find that passive smoking is a specific trigger for further asthma attacks. There is no doubt about that-- it is factually correct.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most moving occasions in the House was about a year ago in the Jubilee room when Roy Castle, the entertainer, came here? Someone who had never smoked in his entire life had lung cancer as a direct result of passive smoking.
"Smoking causes cancer". "Smoking causes heart disease". "Smoking causes fatal diseases". "Smoking kills". "Smoking when pregnant harms your baby". "Do not make children breathe your smoke". Those are not my statements, but they are fairly damaging. It has now been agreed legally that those statements will be rotated on all cigarette packets. Surely that is a sign that even tobacco companies accept that those statements have to be made and are, indeed, true.
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate) : Is not my right hon. Friend defeating his own object, as it is understood that the vast majority of people in this country understand the dangers of smoking because advertising has put across the message about smoking harming health?
Sir Peter Emery : I like my hon. Friend very much but I find the logic of that question slightly absurd. If it is proved--as it is--that advertising must have some effect on increasing smoking, whatever the advertisements say, they are still being put forward with the intention of making people smoke more. Otherwise, why do companies advertise? I shall come to that point in a moment.
I shall add to the important evidence in the Smee report, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Rother Valley. That report "concluded that the evidence from four countries where tobacco advertising has been banned indicated a significant effect' on tobacco consumption."
That is not a fool making that assumption ; it is the economic adviser to the Department of Health. At the behest of the Government, he made this report. I quote :
"He noted that advertising could persuade children or adults to start smoking, smokers to smoke more or to continue, and quitters to start again. One study, quoted by Mr. Smee, showed that 44 per cent. of smokers agreed that smoking can't really be dangerous or the Government would ban cigarette smoking'.
In a recent survey carried out by the National Asthma Campaign, 57 per cent. of people with asthma showed that passive smoking caused them difficulties. In July 1993, Dr. John Britton, of Nottingham University, working with National Asthma Campaign funding, announced his findings that women
Column 578who smoke during pregnancy are significantly more likely to produce children with asthma than women who do not. These women may unwittingly be precipitating in their unborn child the occurrence of a potentially fatal illness."
Surely, we should look at that instance.
The British Thoracic Society, meeting in Dublin this year, made it clear that
"Children whose mothers smoked heavily during pregnancy, and during their child's early years, are over 30 per cent. more likely to develop asthma or experience wheezing by the time they are 16." The study was not small ; it was carried out among 15,000 children who were born in one week in 1970. I quote :
"Among children not exposed to cigarette smoke, 29 per cent. were reported to have asthma symptoms by the age of 16. Among children whose mothers smoked 25 or more cigarettes a day during pregnancy and early childhood, 39 per cent. had asthma symptoms--an increase of over 30 per cent. Low birth weight babies were also much more likely to develop asthma. Fifty per cent. of those in the study born under 1.5 kg had experienced wheezing illness by the age of 16."
Those are some of the results of cigarette smoking.
If we break down the figures for advertising, £60.4 million is spent on press advertising, £11 million on television, £16 million on posters--I am delighted that the Government are moving in this direction and we must give them credit for that ; I hope that our action is hastening them along in this way--and about £14 million on other promotions. Can any hon. Member honestly put his hand on his heart and tell me that that money is being spent not to encourage people to smoke? What is it not meant to encourage--anyone to take up smoking? I am more likely to believe that the money is being given as a gift to the advertising agencies than that cigarette companies are spending the money not to encourage people to smoke.
Mr. Evans : It is a legal product. During the past 10 years, the turnover of my business of tobacco products has fallen from about two thirds to one third. That is fine, because the business has diversified into other products. There is not a monopoly of tobacco producers in this country and there are competing firms with competing brands. Is not advertising a way by which those firms include people who already smoke to switch brands, and not an inducement to non-smokers to take up tobacco?
Sir Peter Emery : I am sorry that I gave way before my next sentence, which was to deal with that subject. I cannot accept that this immense sum is spent to fulfil brand image between different brands of cigarettes. Of course, there may be some aspect of that, but the concept that that is the main reason for spending £100 million on advertising is nonsense.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) : I worked for many years in the advertising and public relations business. On one occasion, I had to turn down--because I could not touch it--an account from the Freedom Association for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco. FOREST is a front organisation for the tobacco industry, and I think that it now stands for the freedom for the right to eliminate somebody else's throat. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the sole reason for the industry investing such huge sums in advertising
Column 579has nothing to do with brand loyalty, but is to replace with younger people those of their customers who are dying at the upper end of the age range?
Sir Peter Emery : I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has to say. There is certainly a suggestion of that, although, as yet, there is no statistical proof. The House will take the point made by the hon. Gentleman from his own experience.
It is argued that we would be interfering with the liberty of people if we limited advertising. That might be true if the Government had not already taken the steps so to do. However, the Government have taken such steps. The libertarian argument is that if something is legal, it ought to be able to be advertised. That is the type of statement that we hear from those people.
There are a number of things that are legal but which cannot be advertised. That is not anything unusual. A barrister is legal--in more senses than one --but he is not allowed to advertise. [Hon. Members :-- "They are."] If, in fact, one looks at the structure of law societies one will find that that is still discouraged. Sanitary products were initially banned, and those products are only allowed to be advertised on television only at certain times later at night. The concept that there are no controls over advertising for legal things does not hold water.
Rev. Martin Smyth : The House should examine the argument that because something is legal it is permissible. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if tobacco were a new drug coming on to the market, it would not be licensed by the Government? Does he also agree that it has been known for drugs to be taken off the market when they are found to be dangerous?
Sir Peter Emery : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I wish to deal with one aspect of costs about which I know personally. It is widely accepted that passive smoking and smoking have an effect on asthma. The direct cost to the NHS of drugs and admissions to hospitals is £473 million a year on asthma, the estimated amount lost to industry because of the illness is £400 million, and the social security costs of sickness and invalidity benefit are £70 million.
That is a cost of just under £1 billion because of the problems of asthma in this country. There is positive proof that smoking is causing those difficulties to be accentuated, so surely we should take every step to discourage smoking. I am not alone in saying that--the Government are also saying it. They have produced smoking-related literature which outlines a strategy to reduce smoking. The Government have described their future action, and the effect of the price of tobacco. They have given a commitment to work with the European Community to encourage other European countries with prices lower than the United Kingdom to raise them to match our own.
The Government have dealt with the illegal sales of tobacco, health education, banning harmful new products, action in schools, health warnings, Government support to the voluntary sector-- [Interruption.] I just want to build up a case, which hon. Members may not like. This is not my case, but the Government's. I am doing the Government's job.
Column 580The Government's strategy also deals with insurance premiums. The Department of Health will provide advice to insurance companies on the health effects of smoking, and will encourage them to consider whether they should introduce or extend preferential treatment to non-smokers. The strategy contains a commitment to effective controls of advertising, smoking in public places, smoking in the workplace, action in Government Departments, action to ensure a virtually smoke-free NHS and action on a research programme.
In all those positive moves to ensure that smoking is decreasing, the one thing that the Government have left out is advertising. They know and I know that advertising encourages people to smoke. The real problem that must be faced is the £7.5 billion which comes in tax on tobacco products.
The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : My right hon. Friend has done a most marvellous job of reviewing the Government's strategy. In a desire to be helpful to him, I will inform him that he will find that advertising is included in that strategy.
Sir Peter Emery : I think that I did refer to it. [ Hon. Members- - : "You said that it had been left out."] I did refer to effective controls on advertising. Hansard will tell us whether I did refer to advertising. [Interruption.]
I was trying to say that the Government are building up a massive case against smoking. I do not think that the Government will actually approve the Bill, although I believe that they are willing to see that it goes to Committee. That would allow greater discussion on the matter, even among those people who are against it. We can argue the matter better in Committee than we can on the Floor of the House.
The real reason why the Government cannot support the Bill is because £7.5 billion comes in tax. If advertising were to be banned and cigarettes were to fail absolutely, where would that money come from? Would taxes have to be increased?
Mr. Bayley : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in their "Health of the Nation" programme, the Government have set a target of reducing the number of cigarettes sold from 98 billion in 1990 to, I believe, 57 billion in 2000? The Secretary of State for Health, in setting that target, must have spoken to the Chancellor and explained to him the tax implications of the Government's policy for reducing the number of cigarettes sold. Will not the Treasury have taken account of that already?
Sir Peter Emery : I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Indeed, it is the Government's policy to attempt to reduce smoking by about 40 per cent. by the turn of the century. What I am saying to the Government is that considerable financial benefits would accrue to the Treasury from moving more quickly than the Government propose. That is why I gave the list of the costs of just asthma to the nation, amounting to almost £1 billion. The
Column 581Bill would assist in bringing at least the 40 per cent. reduction through more quickly. The financial benefits to the nation would balance the loss in taxation.
We must consider the factors that I have listed. If we do not, we do not look at the whole picture.
I have set out the various factors : the difficulties, the effect on health, the moves that the Government are gladly making to discourage smoking, the difficulties in carrying those moves through, but also the benefits that would accrue from reducing smoking. I have tried to bring a balance to the problems of the finance. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. In Committee, there may be ways of making alterations to promotion or advertising only of cigarettes. We can debate all that not on the Floor of the House, but in Committee. Therefore, I hope that we can obtain a Second Reading for what is in many ways an admirable Bill.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : I agree with the comments of the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir Peter Emery). I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) on introducing the Bill. Despite the many interventions that he faced, he knows and the whole House knows that there is widespread agreement throughout the country among parents of young children, teachers in the schools that those children attend and, most certainly, the medical profession. There is no doubt that such agreement exists. Some three years ago I was a member of the Standing Committee considering the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Bill, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). That Bill, like the Bill that we are discussing today, had massive support. It went into Committee and we had some interesting discussions. I am sure that if my hon. Friend catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, he will elaborate on what happened. The only way in which we could make progress on that Bill in Committee was by accepting amendments and making concessions that those of us on the Committee who supported the Bill did not want to make. Afterwards, we found that there was widespread annoyance among people outside who had been associated with the Bill, especially parents, about the concessions that had to be made so that the Bill would at least get through its Committee stage. I hope that we have learnt from those experiences.
I take the comments that you have made, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I realise that a great many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. I do not intend to speak for long, but I want to make a few comments that are relevant to the debate. In the past few days we have all received a document from the Minister for Health entitled "Smoke-free for Health". With that document he sent a letter in which the following statement was made :
"The voluntary agreements have served us well and the Government has no reason to believe that they will not be effective in delivering the firmer controls which are needed in
Column 582some areas, particularly in respect of exposing children to tobacco advertising. We believe that they are preferable to a statutory ban."
We received that letter on 7 February.
It so happens that on 2 February I received a letter from St. George's hospital in my constituency, one of the major hospitals in the United Kingdom. The letter was from Sandra Legg, the chief nurse and chairman of the smoking policy committee of St. George's hospital. What she said contradicted completely what the Minister said. Her letter came three or four days before the letter and booklet sent to all Members of Parliament by the Minister. She said :
"As health care providers, St. George's Healthcare is keen to support any measures which promote health. There is, I believe, evidence to support a view that imposing a ban on tobacco advertising would decrease cigarette smoking and I would therefore welcome such a move The Trust has taken steps to reduce smoking amongst its own staff, patients and visitors. From January 1st 1994 a total ban on smoking was introduced in all Trust buildings".
So there we have a senior member of staff in one of the major hospitals of Britain stating a view based on her and her colleagues' experience, which is contrary to the line that we have been given by the Minister for Health. The Minister says that a voluntary ban would succeed. But Sandra Legg, with the support of her colleagues, on the basis of her experience, doubts what the Minister seeks to tell us and sell to us.
I am sure that many Members of Parliament, irrespective of party, and people outside the House will take far more notice of highly qualified people in our health service who say that the voluntary basis has been tried before and, sadly, just has not succeeded. Now is the time for the Government to give support to this Bill.
Mr. Nigel Evans : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many items for sale in shops--I probably sell most of them--would damage the health of the nation, particularly youngsters, if over-consumed. I am thinking of confectionery. Over-consumption might be said to damage the health of young people. Does the hon. Gentleman think that it would improve the health of the nation to ban or control advertising of any other items?
Mr. Cox : I certainly believe that there must be a much greater campaign on the effects of excessive drinking. [ Hon. Members :-- "Ah."] Yes, most certainly. I should have thought that all of us in the House know that we are repeatedly told that we should do this or that in our health service. Of course we should. The problem is the expenditure that such action would incur. That is why I believe that we are right to look at other products the consumption and use of which affects people's health. Possibly, at some future date we should deal with issues such as that named by the hon. Gentleman. Today, however, we are considering smoking and the effect that my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley seeks to make in introducing the Bill. There is ample evidence of the danger of smoking and, sadly, the damage that is caused to millions of people throughout Britain. In an intervention on the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir. P. Emery) I mentioned Roy Castle's visit. He has never smoked but throughout his life he entertained in clubs where the atmosphere was polluted by smoke. Sadly, that is how he developed cancer--through passive smoking. [Interruption.] It is no use hon. Members waffling on from a sedentary position. If they want me to give way, I will do so.
Mr. Cox : If the hon. Gentleman is referring to my comments about Roy Castle's sad illness, he was told that that was the cause after extensive medical examinations and opinions when he was treated by the national health service. To its credit, Roy Castle's very serious illness was detected, but the cost to the health service must have been substantial. I would be shocked if the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) objected to someone who had never smoked but became very ill having the opportunity to go to hospital to find out what was wrong with him.
Dr. Spink : Is it not true that the hon. Gentleman did not know that that was the reason, but that medical experts stated it? We cannot substitute our amateur knowledge for that of the medical experts in that case or in any other.
Mr. Cox : I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment. I received a letter from the British Medical Association--I am sure that it was sent to other hon. Members--dated 8 February. The Association is no doubt about what it wants. It writes :
"The BMA, on behalf of doctors, has always taken a very public stance in support of tobacco advertising being banned. There is overwhelming evidence which shows that advertising does attract new smokers, particularly among the young."
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley outlined, there is clear evidence that advertising affects young people and we have such evidence from many different sources.
If hon. Members listen to people outside this place, who look to us to introduce legislation that will benefit not merely their families but society, I believe that the Bill should get a Second Reading and go into Committee.
I was here last Friday when we debated the Energy Conservation Bill. No one seems to have argued today as they did then that, although the Bill contains many good measures, we must question its cost. That sort of blue herring has not been floated during today's debate and I hope that it will not be a consideration in a vote--it would be regrettable if we were forced to divide on the Bill. The Government have the opportunity to show their concern on this important issue and to respond to requests that the general public have made. The real test of the Bill will be in Standing Committee. Heaven only knows how much this publication--"Smoke-Free for Health"--cost. I welcome it because there are times when Governments can say that they believe that it is essential to prepare the case and make it available for everyone to read, even though that may be expensive. I have already quoted one of the Minister for Health's comments in the document. That comment is totally denied by national health service workers.
I warmly support the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley, who presented this Bill, and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East three years ago. He did a great service to this country and was widely supported both by people and by organisations who understood the damage that he was seeking to overcome through the introduction of his Bill.
I hope that this Bill will not be opposed. Hon. Members who have been in the House for some time know that Standing Committees are the real place for discussion. Even if some of us have reservations, we do not want a
Column 584good Bill to be killed off by bringing in the payroll vote who, if they were honest with themselves, would support the Bill. I hope that the Minister for Health will not say that the Bill is good but that the Government have reservations about it. I also hope that if there is a Division the payroll vote will not be forced into the Lobby to vote against the Bill. I want the Bill to be given an unopposed Second Reading and to go into Committee, where the main issues can be discussed properly.