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Mr. Congdon : The issue of advertising and young people is clearly critical. The Smee report has been referred to by hon. Members in the debate. Although it is true that advertising increases the awareness of young people, the report suggests that it is not reliable evidence that advertising increases consumption among young people. What does the hon. Gentleman have to say about that ?
Mr. Austin-Walker : The hon. Gentleman ought to read some of the statements by Ministers. One of the things on which all hon. Members agree is that we must be clear in the messages we give to young peole and children. Children need clear messages. As a result of the current state of public policy, children are receiving mixed messages. The advertising from the tobacco industry contradicts the advertising of the Government's health message. A ban on cigarette and tobacco advertising would be just about the most powerful health message that the Government could give.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Health came to the House to talk about health in London. She made a statement about the importance of primary care services and the prevention of ill-health. The biggest contribution she could make to combating ill-health in the nation would be to put a ban on cigarette advertising. Every Member of Parliament could point to the impact of cigarette smoking on their constituencies. Of the 792 people who die in Woolwich every year, one in five dies as a result of cigarette smoking. Each year, 458 residents of Woolwich go into a national health service hospital because of smoking-related illnesses. Twelve beds every day are taken up by people with smoking-related illnesses.
The Secretary of State said yesterday that some of us in London were obsessed with beds. I can tell her one way of reducing the need for beds. It is to reduce the consumption of cigarettes. She could make a major contribution by supporting my hon. Friend's Bill.
Mr. Sweeney : On that point, has the hon. Gentleman found, as I have, that many people who work in the health service have written pleading with us to support the Bill? They appreciate how many lives it will save and how much it will reduce the pressure on our valuable national health service resources.
Mr. Austin-Walker : I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I was about to refer to the £325 million direct cost to the national health service of tobacco-related illness. I draw in aid and support the comments which consultant physicians in my area have made to me, as they have to other hon. Members. I have received a letter signed by every consultant in the department of respiratory and general medicine of the Greenwich health care trust urging me to come to the House today to support my hon. Friend's Bill. I have received a letter from a consultant physician at the Brook hospital. He says :
"As a Chest Physician, virtually every day I see both in my Out-patient clinics and as In-patients the effect that smoking has had on my middle- aged and elderly patients who have gradually become incapacitated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema which has progressed to respiratory failure In addition, I have a substantial number of young patients with asthma, many of whom have taken up smoking in their teens. These individuals as well as risking the medium and long-term consequences of smoking, already in a minor way exhibit the detrimental effects of the habit on the frequency and severity of their attacks of asthma. Like most health professionals"--
in this case we ought to listen to those people who are involved at the sharp end in dealing with the menace of tobacco smoking-- "I feel exasperated and frustrated by the unwillingness of the Department of Health to support proposals to ban tobacco advertising ; indeed, the perception is that the Department is more interested in the promotion of the tobacco industry than good health."
Column 606If the Minister wants to show that that is not true, and end the exasperation and frustration of consultants, he should give his whole-hearted and unqualified support to my hon. Friend's Bill. There is concrete evidence. Some people will deny evidence, no matter how strong. If they do not believe that the evidence is absolutely foolproof, I ask them to examine the evidence on the basis of reasonableness and probability. No one who takes an objective view could come to any other conclusion than, first, that smoking kills, and secondly, that advertising tobacco increases the take-up of smoking.
As the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) said, other factors may lead to an increase or decrease in smoking. Price, taxation and Government health education campaigns may all have an effect, but advertising presents smoking as an apparently normal and socially acceptable habit, and it swamps the health message that the Government are trying to convey. Will the Minister consider how many children could be saved from thinking that smoking is okay, cool and a smart habit?
As the Smee report suggests, smokers feel that smoking cannot be as dangerous as the Government point out, if they allow the product to be advertised so freely. The Government spend an important sum on tobacco- linked health education, but it is a pittance compared to the resources of the tobacco industry against which they are competing. The Government report states that the existence of pro-smoking advertising dilutes the impact of the health education message. Other factors may lead to a decline in smoking, as the hon. Member for Lewes said, but Smee concludes in the Government's own report that in those countries where a ban has been imposed, taking into account all the other factors, such as price, taxation and health education, "the banning of advertising was followed by a fall which cannot reasonably be attributed to other factors."
The Conservative party derives much of its income from the tobacco industry. One wonders whether some Conservative Members might be more concerned about the health of the Tory party than the health of the nation. [Interruption.] If Conservative Members believe that that is a slur on their integrity, they can prove it by voting for my hon. Friend's Bill.
The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : I have always been surprised at the convention of the House by which we congratulate an hon. Member on his success in the ballot, bearing in mind that it was a ballot, but I congratulate the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) on the way in which he introduced his Bill. As one who has introduced a private Member's Bill and seen it through to the statute book I appreciate the commitment and emotion associated with the introduction of his Bill.
First, I shall try to make as much common cause as possible with some of the comments of the hon. Member for Rother Valley. I am sure that everyone would wish to endorse his generous comments about the late Jo Richardson and Jimmy Boyce. I did not know Jo Richardson very well, but it is one of the pleasures of this House that friendships can strike up across the Floor between Members of opposite parties. I should like to think that Jimmy Boyce and I would have considered ourselves friends and just before his death we were discussing the
Column 607possibility of my visiting his constituency with him. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is not a matter for me, but I hope that it will be possible for those hon. Members who so wish to attend his memorial service later this afternoon.
There are many areas of common cause between us. First, there is no debate about the fact that we want to reduce tobacco consumption. Our record in this country is impressive and I shall return to it. However, the Bill is not about reducing, or not reducing, tobacco consumption as that is a given.
Secondly, I agree that it is not a party political issue and I regret the end of the speech by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker). In three hours, that was the first attempt to make a party political point on an issue which is not party political. Another issue on which we agree is that advertising is an important influence. As the hon. Member for Rother Valley pointed out, we said so ourselves on Monday in paragraph 4.52 of the document to which reference has been made. So there is no disagreement among us about whether advertising is a legitimate area of concern--we agree that it is.
This manifestly difficult issue generates strong feelings and views, some of which have been expressed this morning. Others will no doubt be expressed before the end of the debate. The Government believe that the existing voluntary agreements, which we intend to strengthen, have been effective and have served us well, that they can achieve the necessary protection and that they are preferable to the legislative route. But I wish to deal with that matter as helpfully as I can.
Clearly, there is no quick fix to this problem. Long-term concerted action will be more effective than just slogans, so I want to show that the Government have identified the main issues that affect tobacco consumption. We are trying to take, and believe that we are taking, effective action on all fronts. It will range from the £12 million three-year advertising programme to be launched later this year, to which the hon. Member for Rother Valley referred, to improving the material to be made available by general practitioners to people who visit their surgeries.
Controls on advertising are one element in that picture. I shall seek to explain why we believe that our proposed course of opening negotiations with the tobacco industry to strengthen the present voluntary agreement is preferable to a ban.
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South) : As my right hon. Friend will know, I am a sponsor of the Bill. Is he aware that, seven or eight years ago, when I was a Minister at the Department, I made speeches using exactly the same words as he is now using about the value of the voluntary ban, how the Department of Health itself would spend more money on advertising to persuade youngsters not to smoke, and how the legislative route was not the right way to proceed? Does he now agree that the seven or eight years that have elapsed and the extraordinary body of evidence that has been presented so effectively by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) show that it is now time to think again?
Column 608under the measures which she endorsed for this House. What she advocated at the Dispatch Box has proved to be effective in the years since she stood here.
If we depart from the voluntary approach and ban advertising for a product that is and will remain legal to sell, significant evidence would be needed to convince us that that would deliver more effective results. The element of the speech of the hon. Member for Rother Valley that was significant by its absence was the fact that he did not say whether he felt comfortable about seeking to make illegal the advertising of something that is legal.
Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend accept that many Conservative Members are concerned that this could be the thin end of a rather nasty wedge? Has he seen the comment of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) in which he asked the junior Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to
"examine the possibility of promoting a ban on the advertising of alcohol products"?--[ Official Report, 28 October 1993 ; Vol. 230, c. 967.]
Is there not a danger that a ban on tobacco advertising may be followed by a similar ban on the advertising of whisky, beer and tens of other products of which the hon. Member disapproves?
Dr. Mawhinney : I understand that concern. It is shared by some in the House and outside, but I shall concentrate on the Bill that is before us. No doubt, when right hon. and hon. Members make their judgment at the end of the debate, they will play a number of arguments in their minds. For some, the hon. Gentleman's argument may be one that they wish to play.
Mr. Barron : The Minister's argument about freedom and of things that are able to be bought legally could well have been argued in 1965 when the Government and subsequent Governments decided that they would not allow the advertising of cigarettes on radio and television, because of public health implications. What has altered?
It is already known--I repeated it on Monday--that we are making good progress on three of the four targets that we set out in "Health of the Nation". One target on which we are not making good progress is in young people aged 11 to 15. That is a matter of concern. I have been able to tell the House of some interesting new information. Within that age group, the children whose parents do not smoke have reached the target of 6 per cent. The percentage of children of parents who smoke has not shown any movement. I put that point to the House because no one has yet sought to make a differential advertising argument in relation to whether advertising would be effective for the children of parents who smoke compared with children of those who do not. The House will want to bear that piece of relevant information in mind.
Mr. Bayley : Does the Minister agree that factors that dissuade people from taking up smoking tend to reinforce themselves? In families where neither parent smokes, there will be strong pressure on the children not to smoke. Therefore, those children will be less susceptible to the effects of tobacco advertising. All the evidence shows that those who are most affected by advertising are those who grow up in a smoke-filled environment. Therefore, it is
Column 609important to ban advertising, because that group are most at risk of smoking, are affected by advertising and take up smoking in greatest numbers.
I shall deal later with parental behaviour and attitude, about which there is common ground across the House. I have not yet heard it argued that there is some differential advertising effect. In the light of the new information, that needs to be argued. About 20 years ago, 45 per cent. of this country's population smoked. In 1990, the figure was 30 per cent. In 1992, 28 per cent. smoked.
That is a very impressive record, not because the statistics look good or that it shines a lamp of glory on the Government, but because it has been achieved by the combined effects of many people and represents lives saved and ill health avoided. We need to examine the way in which that was achieved, and whether any improvements are necessary.
Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen) : I do not think that there is any argument about the reduction in smoking. Is my hon. Friend aware, however, of a disturbing trend among young people? The lung cancer death rate among women under 45 is 50 per cent. higher in some parts of Yorkshire than elsewhere in the country. Many of us are worried about the number of young people, particularly girls--not even women--who are taking up smoking after seeing all the advertising.
Dr. Mawhinney : I am aware of that problem, and I am no less concerned about it than my hon. Friend. We are all concerned. Concern about ill health is not a party political issue ; all Members of Parliament feel such concern--on behalf of their constituents, and as a result of their corporate responsibility for the well-being of the country.
The issue is not whether lung cancer is caused by smoking. I was brought up in a family of non-smokers, but my uncle died of lung cancer, having smoked about 80 cigarettes a day. As a teenager, I visited him in hospital shortly before he died. Like many hon. Members, I need no instruction about the link between lung cancer and smoking. The issue, however, is much narrower- -whether the Bill would improve the existing arrangements, which we are reviewing and some of which we intend to tighten so as to reduce tobacco consumption even further.
Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North) : I thank my hon. Friend for the useful statistics that he gave. Two factors, however, should be borne in mind. First, a voluntary arrangement has been working very well in the United Kingdom ; it has been revised nine times, and honed down. Secondly, action is being taken in regard to advertising. The Bill is, after all, about advertising. Despite the confluence of those two factors, Opposition Members say that advertising is causing the trouble, but obviously it is not.
Smoking-related diseases still account for about 110,000 premature and avoidable deaths a year. It is estimated that some 50 million working days may be lost
Column 610annually because of smoking. My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) dealt with all the health issues with his customary skill.
Evidence also suggests--it is more recent evidence, but it is important-- that perhaps one non-smoker a day dies as a consequence of inhaling other people's tobacco smoke. The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) made that point, citing Roy Castle. Every day, about 50 children under five are admitted to hospital suffering from illnesses related to passive smoking ; children that age are almost certainly inhaling smoke from their parents' cigarettes.
There is no difference between hon. Members on this point. The White Paper, "The Health of the Nation", set out for the first time specific, quantified targets for reducing smoking, and the Government as a whole are committed to those targets. They have been widely welcomed by everyone with an interest in health. The targets are ambitious but, given the seriousness of the subject, they should be. They are not simply a forward projection of historic trends and the Government are determined to meet them.
Mr. Tony Banks : I am sure that the House will agree that the statistic of 110,000 people a year dying from smoking-related diseases is appalling. Why, then, does hardly anyone die from the smoking or using of cannabis? If we treat this as a health issue, cannot a case be made for banning nicotine and legalising cannabis?
Mr. Thurnham : My right hon. Friend has outlined the success of the Government's voluntary policy in many respects. He will be aware that, nationally, the infant mortality rate has declined but that Bolton has a rising rate of infant mortality. It is now twice as high as the national average, which is causing concern. Will he confirm the link between maternal smoking and low birth-weight babies and that infant mortality is linked to the incidence of low birth-weight babies? Is he aware of the strength of feeling in Bolton about the "Reg" targeted advertising campaign, which without doubt is in breach of the voluntary code because of its impact on young people? Will he consider asking tobacco and advertising companies to make Bolton an oasis free of advertising and to conduct a health education campaign to see whether we can reduce diseases and the effects of tobacco smoking?
Dr. Mawhinney : On the first of my hon. Friend's three questions, yes, there is evidence linking maternal smoking to low birth-weight babies and other problems with new-born children. Secondly, I am aware of the effects of the "Reg" campaign in Bolton, not least because he and my fellow Minister in the Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville), have assiduously informed me of it on behalf of their constituents, and I pay tribute to them for doing so. Thirdly, as my hon. Friend will know, and he will be encouraged that I know, he has written to me in the past couple of days suggesting the oasis idea. I shall reflect on it and write to him.
I am beginning to develop a problem. Let me share it with the House. It has always been my view that, especially on private Member's Bills, Ministers presenting the
Column 611Government's case should be as open and as active in the debate as it is possible to be, and I have sought to do that in the past 20 minutes. The consequence is that we shall not make as much progress and other hon. Members will not be able to make the speeches that they should like. I leave it to the House to decide. I shall seek to be as responsive and helpful as I can, but there is a price to be paid by other hon. Members and they will have to decide how they wish to handle the matter.
Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : Recognising that 110,000 deaths a year are attributed to smoking-related diseases and that progress as a result of Government action to date has been rather slow in solving the problem, will the Minister make a dramatic gesture to show clearly today that the Government are taking this seriously, because it will become increasingly difficult for small measures to have any real impact in the future?
Dr. Mawhinney : The difficulty is that the hon. Gentleman's point does not stand robustly against the evidence. We are not making slow progress. Other than the Netherlands, to which I shall return later, we have the best record in Europe and one of the best in the world for reducing tobacco consumption. The hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to know that I am not given to dramatic gestures most of the time.
On Monday, the Government published "Smoke-free for Health", an action plan to achieve the "Health of the Nation" targets on smoking. It shows that we are on track for three of the four main targets, which is encouraging, but we need to build on that momentum. We also need to recognise that there are sectors in which we are not making the progress that we should like to make, and that is especially so in the 11 to 15 age group. That is a key concern for hon. and right hon. Members and it has been reinforced in the debate. I want the House to know that it is a key concern of Ministers also. Because we recognise the need for continuing action, the plan sets out the key elements of what we believe to be a strategic and comprehensive approach to achieve the targets. That approach extends throughout Government, and comment has already been made, not least by the hon. Member for Rother Valley, about the involvement of the Treasury in that policy. Controls on tobacco advertising are one element of that strategy, but they are only one element. There are others.
We are taking action on price because we know that there is good, solid evidence that price influences consumption. We are taking action to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to children ; I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), whose Bill--which became the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991--made that possible.
We are also taking action to tell smokers and non-smokers about the health risk and trying to put in place helplines and other forms of help to people who wish to quit smoking. We are trying to take action to protect non- smokers from passive smoking. We are trying to take action to improve scientific understanding of the risks from tobacco and to reduce the harm from tobacco products, and I was glad that several people welcomed my announcement
Column 612on Monday of the setting up of the new scientific committee. We are also taking action to ensure effective controls on advertising and promotion.
Cutting smoking does not require action from Government only. It is a challenge for everyone. One ill-informed newspaper report accused me of passing the buck when I said that on Monday. It is a fallacy that the Government, by themselves, have the ability to reduce tobacco consumption. All of us have a part to play. I will discuss that in more detail later, but parents should realise how strong an influence they have on their children's smoking habits.
There seems to be no argument to enable us to discount the evidence that children with parents who both smoke are two and a half times as likely to be regular smokers as children with non-smoking parents. One study has shown that children who believe that their parents strongly disapprove of them smoking are seven times less likely to become smokers than children who think that their parents do not care. Whatever else may divide the House today, as the message goes out to the country I hope that there is no ambiguity about the message that parents' behaviour and attitude to their children and to whether their children smoke is one of the most powerful ways of trying to stop that crucial 11 to 15 age group from adopting the habit.
Ms Glenda Jackson : One of my constituents, Mr. Tim Graham, is a founder member of Parents Against Tobacco. He asks the Government to help parents to convince their children of the dangers of smoking. He says :
"It is very difficult to convince young people that we are serious about the risks of smoking, when they can see striking adverts for cigarettes on the streets where they play, in the shops where they buy their sweets, and when they watch sport on TV."
If the Government are serious about assisting parents they should respond to that cry from parents who are fighting that battle, and ban tobacco advertising.
Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Lady has twice made interventions that are essentially the same as her speech. I understand her point and I want her to know that my discussions at constituency level with my local Parents Against Tobacco group are constructive. Both she and I are committed in a variety of ways to trying to strengthen the influence of parents, which is crucial for this age group.
We look to teachers and school governors to give a lead by adopting policies on smoking and by taking action on health education in schools. They are talking to the crucial 11 to 15 age group. The nation curriculum now requires children between the ages of 7 and 16 to be taught about the harmful effects of smoking. I suspect that that requirement finds broad agreement across the House.
We expect retailers to obey the law which prevents sales of tobacco to children under 16. If they fail to do so, we expect local authorities to discharge their responsibilities. We also urge employers to introduce written policies and to restrict smoking throughout the workplace. The "Health of the Nation" working group devoted to workplace health, which includes representatives from industry, small business, the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, is advising on how best to take that aspect forward.
We are encouraging managers of public places to continue to think about the merits of introducing smoke-free areas and then to act. There has been a remarkable increase in the percentage of smoke-free public places over the past 10 years. That change has been carried
Column 613forward because people with a sense of ownership of their public places have made judgments about how they wish them to be. I continue to believe that that is an effective way forward. We want areas to cater for the interests of non-smokers. We expect health professionals to take every opportunity to use their special position to advise people about the damage done by smoking and to help them give up.
Dr. Spink : Does my right hon. Friend recall a written answer to me that revealed that many more youngsters are prosecuted for under-age drinking than for buying cigarettes under age? Chief constables and local authorities should address that problem. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend recognises that parental responsibility is the key factor in this equation. The major aim of the Bill must be to prevent people of 15 and younger from starting smoking.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that even though cigarette advertisements have not been allowed on television in this country since 1965, Sir Donald Maitland, the chairman of the Health Education Authority, told us that 64 per cent. of children between nine and 14 honestly believed that they had seen advertising on television during the past week
I now turn more specifically to the policy on tobacco advertising. As the "Health of the Nation" White Paper and the action plan on smoking make clear, the Government recognise--the hon. Member for Rother Valley was right--the importance of effective controls on tobacco advertising and promotion. As has been said, the advertising of cigarettes on television has been banned since 1964. The ban was extended to all tobacco products in 1991. Other advertising and promotional activities have been controlled since 1971 under Governments of both parties through voluntary agreements between Health Ministers and the tobacco industry. The sponsorship of sport by the tobacco industry is also controlled through a separate voluntary agreement which is now the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage.
The agreements already provide wide-ranging and strict controls on tobacco advertising. The main provisions of them include the stipulation that the content of all advertisements must comply with the cigarette advertising code of practice. Advertisements must not, for example, appeal more to the young than to the general population and they must not associate smoking with success of sex appeal. I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Rother Valley said about the "Reg" advertising campaign and what may or may not be the re-emergence of that campaign.
Mr. Barron : Yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority replied to my letter about that recent advertisement and defended it. The only difference between that advertisement and the four adverts that it said in December had to be withdrawn is the absence of that
Column 614man's face. Does the Minister honestly think that we can have confidence in an authority if it polices matters in that way?
Dr. Mawhinney : I was careful to say to the hon. Gentleman that I listened carefully to the points that he made, not only about the campaign but about what he believed was its re-emergence. The second part of the agreement is that all press and poster advertising must carry health warnings covering 17.5 per cent. of the area and advertising is not allowed in magazines where more than 25 per cent. of the readership are women aged between 15 and 24. The number of shop-front advertisements will be reduced by 50 per cent. from the 1991 level in five years and the voluntary agreement on sport precludes tobacco companies from sponsoring activities in which the majority of participants are under 18 or which are designed to appeal mainly to the under-18 age bracket.
The system of voluntary agreements has proved to be sufficiently flexible to respond to special concerns. One example is that when the voluntary agreement first came into effect, the area of posters which had to be covered with a health warning was 6 per cent. Now it is 17.5 per cent. The Government are concerned that the impact of the Bill would be to replace that flexible, voluntary system, based on negotiations in response to particular concerns, with a statutory ban on the advertising of that which, as I have said, it is and will remain legal to sell.
I fully accept that the Bill is motivated by concerns over public health. We share and applaud those concerns.
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst) : My right hon. Friend's speech is completely consistent with the case which the Government have made for some years, especially with regard to a voluntary agreement. However, many of us feel that that case has within it gross inconsistency. It must be evident to him from the many speeches that he has heard this morning, that there is strong support in the House for the Bill. We all hope very much-- [Hon. Members :-- "No, we do not."] A clear majority of Members who have spoken have indicated their support for the Bill and we hope that it will go into Committee. If, nevertheless, some of my hon. Friends choose to divide the House on Second Reading, will my hon. Friend the Minister indicate what course he will take?
Mr. Leigh : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend said that the overwhelming feeling is in favour of the Bill. It is because only one speech has been allowed that is against the Bill. There are a number of hon. Members who will not be called.
Mr. John Carlisle : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) has just said. It is a fact that the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) made a statement and was obviously waiting for the Minister to respond. There has been a desperate imbalance in argument allowed from this side of the House and--
Column 615been over-long. I am looking forward to the next speeches being short because I have a long list of Members who wish to speak and I imagine that some will speak for and some against.
Dr. Mawhinney : I will take from that an indication that it may be better for me to get on and take fewer interventions, although I would wish to try to be as helpful as possible. It is not a matter for me, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) knows, whether the House will divide or not or what the judgment of the House will be on the Bill. I am seeking to put the Government's case as clearly and as persuasively as I can. I am content that hon. Members will come to a judgment on it.
A lot of comment has been made about the Smee report. As I was the person who asked Dr. Smee to conduct the report, perhaps I too may be permitted to say a word or two on it. In the White Paper, "The Health of the Nation", the Government recognised widespread concern that controls on tobacco advertising and promotion should be strong and effective. We gave a commitment to review the effects of tobacco advertising and to consider further steps. The Smee report, as it has become called, if not known, reviewed the available evidence thoroughly.
The Government have also considered the many comments on the report. The review supports the Government's view that there is a relationship between tobacco advertising and consumption--indeed, that is the rationale for the existing controls. We find little, however, to support the argument that a statutory ban would have a dramatic effect on further reducing smoking. That view is reinforced when we consider that other measures, such as price and parental influence, have a much greater impact than a statutory ban. We were also unconvinced by international evidence that a ban was necessary if we were to achieve our targets, which are the common ground at the heart of the debate.
I want to consider those arguments in more detail. I fear that some supporters of an advertising ban often appear to overstate the evidence about its possible impact. We need to put that in perspective.
The studies reviewed in the Department of Health discussion document consider ban-related reductions in smoking using data collated over different periods. It is an interesting way to consider the matter and I want to bring to the attention of hon. Members the evidence from surveys in the United Kingdom.
That evidence is clear. Dr. Smee said that, according to surveys of the time, if a ban had been imposed 30 years ago, the reduction in tobacco consumption would have been about 7 per cent. and that, if it had been introduced about 20 years ago, the reduction would have been about half that amount. But the two most recent studies in the United Kingdom both showed that there was no significant statistical link between the banning of advertising and the consumption of tobacco. People will have different interpretations of why that should be so. Having taught a little medical statistics in my time, my interpretation is that the increasingly stringent voluntary
Column 616ban of the past 20 years has almost certainly squeezed out of the system any benefit that a ban would be likely to produce.
Consumption fell from 45 to 28 per cent. in this country during the period referred to in the Smee report. Without a ban, which the evidence suggests would have had increasingly little effect with the passage of time, the consumption of tobacco dropped. To claim in the face of that evidence, as some health campaigners seem to do, that an advertising ban would have a dramatic effect in reducing smoking is not obviously supportable. It is arguable that the United Kingdom approach, which, through the voluntary system, employs a range of effective measures and places tough controls on tobacco advertising, is the most effective. It is noticeable and notable that, among European Union member states, only the Netherlands, which also relies on the voluntary approach, has a better record on reducing smoking than the United Kingdom.
The international comparisons that have been mentioned are also interesting. They show that a statutory ban does not guarantee success in reducing smoking. Supporters of a ban are fond of quoting the figures in the Smee report on the effects of banning advertising in other countries. Not only the hon. Member for Rother Valley but other hon. Members have quoted such figures.
I confirm, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) did, that in Norway there was a 9 per cent. reduction in consumption associated with a ban. In Finland, there was a 7 per cent. reduction, and in Canada there was a 4 per cent. reduction. As my hon. Friend for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) said, price might also have been associated with that reduction. However--this information might be new to the House--only Norway and Finland have had advertising bans in place for sufficient time to allow sensible comparisons of their changes in smoking prevalence with the changes in this country over similar periods. As I have said, in Norway, smoking prevalence has fallen by nine percentage points since advertising was banned in 1975. The House will wish to know that, over the same period, smoking prevalence in this country fell not by 9 per cent. but by 12 per cent. In Finland, smoking prevalence fell by three percentage points in the eight years following the ban. Over the same period in this country, it fell not by 3 per cent. but by 8 per cent. Over the same period, without a statutory ban, we have achieved a greater fall in smoking prevalence than those countries have achieved.