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Sir John Stanley: My hon. Friend stated the Government's view, but it is not one with which I agree. The large number of hon. Members in all parts of the House who supported the Second Reading of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rother Valley also took a different view from the Government.
We hope that there will be stronger legislation on tobacco advertising in future. I hope that the Government will display a more constructive and responsible attitude
Column 1268to this Bill than they did to that of the hon. Member for Rother Valley. I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Worsley, whose Bill has my enthusiastic support.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) and his comments. I make the point to certain Conservative Members that I am another supporter of the Bill who has been fortunate to catch Madam Deputy Speaker's eye.
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) on his luck in the ballot, which many of us enter, but are rarely successful, and on his Bill. Many hon. Members, irrespective of party, have long campaigned on the effects of smoking on the population. Last year, I spoke in support of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), and some years ago I was a member of the Standing Committee that considered a similar measure introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), which centred on shop tobacco advertising. Those Bills, like that now before the House, enjoyed wide cross-party support. I suppose that we all in our personal lives or in our work as Members of Parliament have experienced an event that never leaves us. I am sure that colleagues recall our meeting in the Jubilee Room with Roy Castle, who was greatly loved and respected by the people of this country. When he spoke to us, he was seriously ill and as he outlined the background to his lung cancer, no one could not have been deeply moved by the effect that that had on him and on his family. He said that he had contracted lung cancer because of the nature of his work. As hon. Members have said, passive smoking caused his illness and, sadly, it caused his death.
In recent years, two issues have caught the attention and imagination of the general public, and legislation on them had wide support. The first was drinking and driving, and I do not think that anyone now opposes the legislation to deal with that. Hon. Members have spoken about people's right to choose. No doubt hon. Members will recall that a long time ago there were debates about seat belt legislation. Some hon. Members said, "If someone wishes to drive his car without a seat belt, that is his choice." However, seat belt legislation has saved an enormous number of lives and such measures have the support of the general public and the vast majority of hon. Members.
In recent years, attitudes to smoking have changed. When one goes to a restaurant, one is asked, "Do you wish to sit in a smoking or a non-smoking sector for your meal?" In hotels, people are asked, "Do you want to have a room on a smoking or a non-smoking floor?" There are similar attitudes in transport services. Following tragic fires on the London underground, a strict ban on smoking was imposed. I rarely see anyone totally breaking that law and saying, "I could not care less about the laws. If I wish to have a cigarette while I am using public transport, I will have one."
Without doubt anti-smoking procedures in offices and workplaces have increased. I am sure that many hon. Members have seen in Victoria at various times of the day small groups of workers smoking outside the entrance. That is because company policy and the attitude of the
Column 1269people employed there is to say, "This is a non-smoking place of employment." That shows the attitude of the general public.
Mr. John Marshall: The hon. Gentleman gave examples of restaurants with non-smoking and smoking zones and of hotels with smoking and non- smoking rooms. He also said that in some offices smoking is completely forbidden. Does he accept that those attitudes have come about not as a result of Acts of Parliament, but by the decision of individuals, by the working of the marketplace? Is not that often a more effective tool than legislation?
Mr. Cox: I question that. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the marketplace, but I shall not go down that track because the many interventions in the debate show how interested the tobacco companies are in the marketplace. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley said to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), "I will meet the workers whom you are obviously concerned about provided you also take me to your local hospital."
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central): My hon. Friend was asked whether legislation had reduced smoking. Perhaps it has not, but does he agree that the Government's policy is to reduce smoking? Does he accept that the courts have had an effect as well? They have recognised the dangers of passive smoking and have made awards to employees whose health has been damaged by passive smoking. Therefore, employers have an incentive, which has been placed upon them by the courts, to restrict smoking in places of work and other public places.
It is said that advertisements do not have any great effect. In recent years, the tobacco companies went in for specific types of advertising and spent vast amounts on it. The advertisements were aimed overwhelmingly at young people and portrayed a certain image of smoking. The message was, "You are a tough macho person and you will be popular with the girls if you smoke this brand of cigarette." We all recall the sort of motor car that was featured and how the driver would pick up attractive young ladies. To complete the image, one had to smoke a particular brand of cigarette. Vast sums were spent on such well-researched advertisements.
Mr. Cox: I normally give way willingly and have done so a couple of times. But many hon. Members wish to speak and there have been an enormous number of interventions. I do not intend to speak for long, so I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.
There are clear signs that many young people are smoking: 25 per cent. of 15-year-olds smoke. We see them everywhere as they leave school. Hon. Members have spoken about Government policy on seeking to educate schoolchildren about smoking, but it does not seem to have been very successful. All hon. Members, whatever part of the country they represent, know that
Column 1270within two or three minutes of coming out of school, many children are smoking cigarettes. That needs to be looked at in detail. St. George's hospital in my constituency is one of the largest in the country. I should like to quote from a letter dated 9 February from Professor Walters, who is professor of child health at the hospital's medical school. The letter states:
"My particular research and clinical interest is lung development and the lung diseases of children, primarily asthma. There is now incontrovertible evidence that parental smoking, particularly maternal smoking especially during pregnancy is harmful. Furthermore, data shows that the group most rapidly increasing in its intake of smoking in the UK is young women."
We have heard that comment many times in the debate. The letter goes on:
"Wandsworth, the area in which I work, has one of the largest incidences of childhood asthma in the Country and this is reflected by the very high admission rate at this Hospital for this disease in children."
That letter emphasises the point made by some hon. Members about the effect of smoking on children and on health generally. Of whom do people take notice? Is it of the highly skilled medical consultant or is it of the tobacco companies, which are obviously interested in selling the products that they manufacture? I and, I believe, the vast majority of the general public will take far more notice of that letter and the person who wrote it than of someone who supports the tobacco industry.
I could quote any number of letters. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley gave a list of people and organisations who support the Bill. I just want to quote one more letter, again from a lecturer in medicine--Dr. Griffiths who works at St. George's and who fully supports the Bill. He wrote:
"One in four regular smokers die 15 years prematurely from smoking. Well over 110,000 smokers a year die from the effects on their general health of smoking. Smoking causes 81 per cent. of lung cancer deaths."
Again, that is evidence from a highly qualified doctor working in one of the largest hospitals in this country. Sadly, day by day he has to work with the effects on people who smoke. Therefore I and, I am sure, the majority of the general public, fully support the Bill. I want to make just a few more comments before finishing my speech. Reference has been made to research into why young people smoke. I believe that attitudes change and that the reasons for smoking change, so there needs to be continuing research. For example, we have to question why those who took up smoking five years ago did so, and why those who are taking up smoking now are doing so. I want to put a suggestion to the Minister, although I fully understand that it needs to be studied in detail. We all know that young people have idols, whether they be in sport or in music. Young people pay a great deal of attention to them. Surely those idols are just the sort of people whom the Government should encourage to say, "Smoking is harmful; that is why I don't smoke."
We hear the records that youngsters like to play and we are aware of the promotion behind them. We know that youngsters have idols on the football fields--
Column 1271possible to promote the good side of football. They are the idols of the youngsters. The Minister and his officials should consider encouraging them to emphasise the dangers of smoking.
I want to echo a comment made by both the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling and the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) about needing a clear sign from the Minister of the Government's attitude to the Bill. Interventions are the life-blood of a debate and there have been a large number of them today. Although many of the points raised were important, they were really more Committee points and that is where they should be made. I hope that the Minister will tell us about the Government's attitude because there are many points of real concern, especially for some Conservative Members, which should be discussed in detail in Committee.
I and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House wish my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley the best of luck. We shall do all we can to ensure that his Bill becomes law.
Sir George Gardiner (Reigate): The hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) declared that he is a lifelong non-smoker. I am delighted to say that that is one attribute that I share with him. I have never smoked--a cigarette has never touched my lips-- [Interruption.] Well, perhaps I am a passive smoker.
You, Madam Deputy Speaker, are regarded with a great deal of affection by hon. Members. We look upon you as a favourite schoolteacher. You keep us in order and ensure that we obey the rules. As we have seen today, you occasionally give us a lesson in good manners. Had you been a teacher at my school and, during break, had you gone up to the first floor, taking with you a pair of binoculars, and trained them above the open roof of the latrines, occasionally you would have seen little wisps of smoke, which might have made you somewhat suspicious. I can tell you that you would never have seen a wisp of smoke coming from the cubicle in which young Gardiner was sitting.
I believe that I have something else in common with the hon. Member for Worsley. As a teenager I was always very short of cash. I quickly realised that I could not afford to smoke and drink beer at the same time, or even in the same week. In my case, beer won--and so it has been ever since. I must confess that I dislike a smoky atmosphere. Like many hon. Members who have spoken, I go to great efforts to ensure that I sit in a non-smoking area in a restaurant. I almost rigidly apply a non-smoking rule in my office--with the sole exception of the occasional welcome visits from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle).
I appreciate--indeed, I pay tribute to--the obvious sincerity of the hon. Member for Worsley in putting his arguments, although I felt that some of them were rather thin. I do not think that there is any disagreement about the deleterious effects of smoking on health. I agreed with some of the first part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) when he referred to the difficulties suffered by asthmatics. Indeed, so far all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, which I think has been a slightly unbalanced debate, have been motivated by the best of intentions. We all know where the road that is paved with good intentions all too
Column 1272frequently leads. We have a duty to consider proposals of this sort carefully. A great danger exists today, as it has in past Sessions, especially in relation to smoking, of introducing legislation that leaves us all feeling good and that we have struck a great blow for the health of the nation. The Bill would make no difference. The same strictures could be applied to this measure as were applied to the Bill that the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) introduced in the previous Session. I would call this placebo legislation--passing it may make us feel good, but it has no effect. We must ask whether the Bill is necessary. Among the member states of the European Community, Britain has, with the sole exception of the Netherlands, the most successful record in reducing the incidence of smoking. The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys general household survey was published in January 1994. It showed that, in 1992 in Great Britain, 29 per cent. of men aged 16 or over and 28 per cent. of women smoked cigarettes. That was substantially less than in 1972, when 52 per cent. of men and 42 per cent. of women smoked. The Government's "The Health of the Nation" target is to reduce those percentages still further to 20 per cent. by the year 2000 for both men and women.
As has been admitted today, the reduction in the incidence of smoking is the outcome not of any one single measure, but of the implementation of an integrated package of comprehensive measures. Today, almost universal awareness exists of the health risks that arise from smoking tobacco. Whether people take any notice of that is a matter for them, but they are aware of it. Manufacturers' ability to promote their products is severely limited. Retail prices are high, primarily as a result of taxation rates, which exceed those applying to any other product. Of all the components of policy, the most effective means of reducing tobacco consumption is undoubtedly to raise the price.
Mr. John Carlisle: My hon. Friend might recall that, some two or three weeks ago in a debate in the House, Her Majesty's Opposition saw fit to oppose the latest taxation proposals in the second Budget by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They do not share my hon. Friend's opinion that price is a necessary component. It seems as though official Labour party policy is now that taxation should not be used as a weapon against cigarettes. A future Labour Government might even reduce the taxation if they follow the course that they took some two weeks ago.
Sir George Gardiner: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I do not doubt that the Opposition spokesman will give him the answer. Price is a key factor. Research from all around the world suggests that every 10 per cent. increase in tobacco prices leads generally to a fall in consumption of between 3 per cent. and 6 per cent. Since 1979, the price of cigarettes in real terms has risen by more than 80 per cent. In his Budget statement of November 1993, my right hon. and learned friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he intended to raise excise duties by at least 2 per cent. per annum in real terms. The two Budgets in 1993 led to a combined increase of 21p for a pack of 20 cigarettes. That brought the total increase in excise duties on a pack of cigarettes between 1983 and 1993 to no less than 1,235 per cent. Cigarette consumption fell by nearly 5 per cent. in 1993.
Column 1273In his Budget statement on 29 November last year, the Chancellor increased cigarette prices again by 10 per cent. per pack of 20. In the mini-Budget on 8 December, to which my hon. Friend referred, and which was effective from 1 January this year, a further 6p was added. A recent survey by the leading market research company Mintel predicts that cigarette consumption is expected to fall by 5 per cent. per annum.
Mr. Carlisle: My hon. Friend has been extremely tolerant and generous in giving way. Would he like to make the point that the yield from taxation on tobacco products approaches £9 billion per year? So far in the debate, not a word has been spoken about what would happen if smoking were virtually abolished, as I am sure many of the Bill's supporters would wish. Where would that tax come from, and what is the relationship between the cost of tobacco-related diseases and the revenue that is coming in? We have heard nothing on that score.
Although price is the key factor, public education is crucial, especially for young people. I agree that it is tragic to see young people, who are only too well aware of the health risks of smoking, nevertheless pushing them aside and bowing to peer pressure or pressure in their own homes to take up the habit. Often, there is almost a "man ana" effect. People think, "Smoking is all right for the next year or so, but by the time I am 30, I am sure I will have given up."
As we know, the Department of Health launched the biggest anti-smoking campaign ever at the end of last year. It has been referred to already. It cost more than £13 million. It will run for three years and it is aimed particularly at parents who smoke. Children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to smoke as children who come from non-smoking families. Tobacco advertising is already strictly controlled by voluntary agreement, and the effectiveness of that voluntary approach has been mentioned already. It was shown when Camel cigarettes agreed to end the use of new packaging that was arguably of greater appeal to children.
Health warnings appear on cigarette packets. In the UK, those warnings are larger than in any other European country, and 50 per cent. larger than required by the relevant European directive. I also believe--I will not develop this point at great length because I am sure that other right hon. and hon. Members will do so--that there is a real danger that if the Bill is passed, it will undermine the voluntary agreement on tobacco advertising, which was negotiated with the tobacco industry in good faith and which is proving extremely effective in restricting the promotion of tobacco products. If the Bill is passed, it may be counter-productive to that agreement.
I shall concentrate on the Bill's relationship to the European directive on the labelling of tobacco products and its effect on British industry. As has been said, this is central to the whole argument today. My views on membership of the European Community--the European Union as we are now told to call it--are quite well known. I am described as a Euro-sceptic although I certainly do not wish us to be outside the EC. The House knows full
Column 1274well the importance I attach to this country's ability to govern itself as it wishes and to the House's ability to determine legislation rather than having Brussels or Strasbourg calling the tune.
In one sense, I wish that the Bill could be considered entirely on its merits without the complication of law made in Brussels, albeit that I would still find the Bill objectionable on other grounds, as I shall explain later. The fact is, however, that we cannot consider the Bill without putting it in the context of the European directive which, under the treaty of Rome, the United Kingdom has long since implemented under domestic legislation. When the Bill is put in that context, one quickly sees what a ridiculous and damaging proposal it is.
The Bill would make one law for our industry which could not be applied to competing imports. Why? The answer is because the European directive says so. Clause 1(5) says that regulations may provide that the main requirements will not apply to imports from other member states. It should say, "They shall not apply to imports if they comply with domestic regulations in the member state of origin." That is what the European directive says, whether I or the hon. Member for Worsley like it or not.
Before allowing the Bill to continue its passage we must, therefore, consider whether it is a sensible proposition or whether the whole idea is fundamentally flawed. There is no doubt in my mind that it is certainly fundamentally flawed.
Mr. Nigel Evans: I immediately declare an interest as I have a retail business that sells tobacco products. My hon. Friend spoke about the European Community directive and about the fact that it would give an unfair advantage to tobacco products manufactured outside the United Kingdom. I certainly would not want to see my shop with its shelves packed full of foreign products when we produce good cigarettes in this country. If we take action at all on this issue, it should be taken at a pan- European level and not just in the United Kingdom.
Sir George Gardiner: My hon. Friend makes a good point and I shall cover certain aspects of it later. His experience as a tobacco retailer echoes the messages I have been given by tobacconists in my constituency about the Bill's likely effects, if it is passed. The Bill would require the health warning on packs of tobacco products to be 12 sq cm or 25 per cent., whichever is the greater, on the front and the back. That compares with the size laid down by United Kingdom regulations, which provide that the area of the lettering of the warning must be 6 per cent. Of itself, this is an important point. In addition, the way in which the 6 per cent. warning is measured under the regulations is quite different from the measurement method proposed in the Bill. The Bill's proposal of 25 per cent. or more must be compared with the size of warnings used by other member states of the European Union. The figure is 4 per cent. in countries with one language, 6 per cent. in countries with two languages and 8 per cent. in countries with three languages. All that is laid down in the European directive on the labelling of tobacco products.
The European directive was introduced as a single market measure to avoid distortions of trade in tobacco products. In other words, it was intended to ensure that all products carried roughly the same size of health warning. Whatever I and other hon. Members may think about the European harmonisation process and where it may lead
Column 1275us, the fact is that the Bill is directly contrary to the directive. We should at least be aware of that when considering today whether the Bill has any merit.
We should be aware of the impact that the Bill may have on smoking habits and tobacco consumption. Given the choice of buying tobacco products that have health warnings very much larger than existing UK health warnings or buying products that have a warning two thirds or less of the existing UK size, as would be the case with imported products, it would not be surprising if smokers chose the packs with the smaller warning, not because they did not know of, did not understand or did not accept the health warnings, but simply because they found the design of the other packs more appealing. There is some psychology at work here. Many people could imagine that the packs that had the larger warnings carried the greater danger to health. Being aware of the health risk, they might buy the imported packs with the smaller health warning on them.
Mr. Couchman: I expect that my hon. Friend has received the letter from the British Thoracic Society, signed by Dr. James Friend, which mentions that Australian research has shown that adolescents, when given a choice of brands with a variety of warnings, do not choose the packs that carry prominent, strong, visible and legible health warnings. Does not that reinforce my hon. Friend's argument that people will buy packets that do not have strong warnings on them?
Sir George Gardiner: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Australia, of course, has the luxury of not being a member of the European Union and it can make changes to the warning on cigarette packets without being concerned about the possibility of coming into conflict with legislation from Brussels. Whether unfortunately or not, we are not in the same position as the Australians.
Mr. Leigh: Did not the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis), the promoter of the Bill, give the game away earlier when he replied to interventions by me and my hon. Friends? He said that Commissioner van Miert proposed to change the regulations. The fact is that we have no change on the statute book at the moment. The hon. Gentleman did not deny that EC imports could flood in. Does not that make a powerful point in favour of my hon. Friend's views?
Sir George Gardiner: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the House's attention to that point, both earlier and now. We must go on to consider the impact on trade and on our industry. The United Kingdom tobacco industry directly employs 11,000 people. Those jobs are divided throughout the country. The industry accounts for nearly 3,500 jobs in the south and south-east of England; nearly 1,500 jobs in the midlands; about 1,400 jobs in the north-east; more than 1,300 jobs in the north-west; nearly 1,300 jobs in Northern Ireland; nearly 600 jobs in the south-west; about 600 jobs in Wales; more than 300 jobs in Scotland and nearly 200 jobs in the north of England. Those people are directly employed in the manufacture of tobacco products. Additional tobacco-related employment accounts for about 70,000 full-time jobs. They are found in a wide variety of industries including retailing, wholesaling, packaging, engineering, marketing, advertising and distribution.
Column 1276If the Bill became law, imported products would be far more attractive to the smoker. It would not cause people to smoke less or fewer people to take up smoking, but it would simply mean that those people smoked imported products, either the brand they were used to smoking or another one. Even given all my reservations about European legislation, I cannot see the point of our passing a Bill simply to provide manufacturers in other member states with a marketing advantage over our own industry. That would mean that the House was putting British jobs in jeopardy and transferring them to other member states. [Interruption.] [ Hon. Members:-- "Why are they laughing"?] I am amazed by the Opposition's reaction to that. Has the hon. Member for Worsley taken into account the real possibility that British manufacturers, when they find that they are penalised, will start moving their manufacturing base abroad to import goods here to protect their own market share? Either way, Britain would lose out.
Whatever the hon. Member for Worsley has to say in reply to that point, let him not be under any illusions. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom's tobacco products market is declining rapidly, overseas manufacturers still want a larger share. They will take every opportunity, and the opportunities that the Bill would provide, to do just that.
If the hon. Member for Worsley wants evidence of how different conditions in the United Kingdom market can and do affect trade, he need look no further than the cross-channel trade in tobacco products, which is a live issue in the part of the world that I represent. That trade has resulted from the fact that tobacco tax rates and prices are not harmonised between this country and other member states. The smuggling of tobacco products from the continent to this country is therefore increasing. If we now disharmonise legislation on labelling, as the Bill would, imported products would be sucked straight into the United Kingdom market.
The promoter of the Bill is asking the House to shoot its own industry and the nation's best interests in the foot. He is asking us to do so on unsubstantiated grounds that larger and more prominent health warnings on cigarette packets will dissuade people from smoking and that, thereby, the take-up and incidence of smoking in this country will reduce at a faster rate than it otherwise will do.
Mr. Robert Banks: My hon. Friend has already mentioned the Australian example. We have had no evidence from the sponsors of the Bill to suggest that the larger warnings on Australian packets of cigarettes have had any effect on the warnings transmitted.
Sir George Gardiner: I would be interested in such evidence. Another consequence that would flow from the Bill is the absolute certainty of long, drawn-out and expensive legal actions in the courts in this country and in Europe. I have some grounds for claiming that, because, not unusually, the European directive is confusingly and unclearly worded. It has already given rise to different views by Advocate General Lenz and the European Court of Justice on a reference from the High Court concerning the United Kingdom's regulations on health warnings in the context of the European directive.
If the Bill is approved, the legal argument could be revisited since the European Court of Justice is not bound, as we know, by its previous decisions. There are strong
Column 1277grounds for argument on the point of proportionality, particularly in relation to the prime objective of the directive, which is to harmonise laws to avoid distortion of trade.
There are other grounds for argument, because the directive sets down exhaustive rules in relation to the presentation, as opposed to the size, of warnings. The Bill appears to go far further than the directive allows. It certainly conflicts with that directive in permitting regulations to cover imports, for the directive says specifically that it cannot do so. Practical complications will, therefore, be caused by the implementation of the Bill's detailed provisions, contravening the requirements of the directive.
Mr. John Marshall: I apologise to my hon. Friend for being outside the Chamber for part of his speech. When I came back, I did not realise that I would have the good fortune to hear the rest of it. My hon. Friend has referred to imports. Is he saying that under European law, imported cigarettes from France, Italy, Germany and Holland would carry the size of warning relevant in those countries whereas cigarettes manufactured here would carry a different-sized warning? Would he like to speculate whether that would encourage international companies to relocate their activities outside the United Kingdom, perhaps to Holland, to manufacture the cigarettes consumed in this country?
Mr. Illsley: The hon. Member has twice said that British companies would relocate to Europe because of the problems associated with carrying a larger health warning on British cigarette packs. How does he equate that with the social chapter and the cost upon business?
Sir George Gardiner: I accept that if the manufacturers of tobacco products moved from here to Europe they would be covered by the social chapter. They would certainly have to pay the added overheads that would be associated with that. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that. It would be a matter for those manufacturers' commercial judgment whether the loss that they would incur as a result of staying in this country and having to put larger warnings on their packets would outweigh the costs that the social chapter would impose upon them. Presumably that would be an argument in favour of the social chapter continuing on the continent but not here so as at least to protect some British jobs.
Mr. John Carlisle: That is precisely the point made by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley). Because of the devastating effect that the Bill could have on tobacco companies, they are willing to take the enormous risk and face the enormous cost of the social chapter by moving their manufacturing to other countries-- [Interruption.] Opposition Members may laugh about that, but we are talking about British jobs. By giving jobs away willy nilly and by taking no notice of
Column 1278the devastating effect that the Bill would have on employment in this country, Opposition Members are decrying their own constituents.
All market research shows that there is a virtual 100 per cent. recognition and awareness among smokers of the health warnings on packets. There is also high awareness of the warnings themselves, even though there is one standard warning and six variants that are used in rotation. There is also a very high awareness of health warnings among children to whom the anti- smoking message is preached strongly every day inside and outside schools.
I must point out to the hon. Member for Worsley that it is quite possible, as he knows, to be an anti-smoker and to be at the same time opposed to the Bill as I am. He assumes that people smoke and that children experiment with smoking because they do not understand the health risks that they might be running. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, he must accept that adult smokers continue to smoke with full knowledge and awareness of what is said about the health risks of smoking. They may delude themselves by saying, "Perhaps I'll give up the habit next year," or "Let's try it as a new year's resolution," or what have you--
Sir George Gardiner: Let me complete the point. I would back any measures through the health service or elsewhere to encourage people who want to give up smoking to do that and any measures to make it easier for them to do that.
Sir George Gardiner: Yes, that is stating the obvious. We all know friends who smoke who say, "Yes, I wish I could give it up and save the money that I spend." There is no doubt that people are very well informed about the warnings.
Children, no less than adults, are also aware of the warnings. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) said earlier, there is often a certain perversity about children and particularly teenagers. If we tell them not to do something, it is a challenge that they really must overcome, and all the more so if it relates to something that they think makes them appear rather more adult and when all the peer pressure is to do just that thing. The Bill exhibits a particular and rather peculiar view of human life and behaviour. It presumes that by forcing warnings on people which they already know and understand, the Bill will change their behaviour and they will make choices that the hon. Member for Worsley and I would prefer them to make.
I take a very different view. I believe that people should be allowed to make their own decisions on a well-informed basis as I believe they already do on smoking, drinking, eating and all the other risky and pleasurable things in life. It is not relevant that I personally might not like the decisions that people make. I do not believe that we need a disproportionate measure such as the Bill, not least because it would damage the
Column 1279country's interests without any guarantee that the hon. Member for Worsley would succeed in his fundamental, and I accept sincere, objective.
Finland fully understood that point when it decided most recently to comply with the European directive on the labelling of tobacco products. Finland reduced the size of health warnings on packs from 33 per cent., which was the national requirement before Finland joined the European Community, to 6 per cent. as required by the European directive in a two-language country.
I have no desire to promote the cause of a European super-state--far from it. That is not what I am doing in opposing the Bill. I am seeking simply to inject a note of realism into the debate and, in doing so, I am trying to put emotional considerations to one side. I ask my colleagues to do the same. If they do that, I hope and believe that the House will today reject this unnecessary Bill.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) on his good fortune in the ballot for private Members' Bills and on introducing a Bill that is designed to improve public health, in particular the health of our children. I was interested in the comments by the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir. G. Gardiner) about the nation's best interests in terms of producing tobacco and cigarettes. Perhaps the nation's best interests are in improving its health.
Over the past two or three years, the House has shown its willingness to allow progress--albeit limited progress--on Bills relating to smoking. The majority of hon. Members accept that we need to emphasise the dangers of smoking and to accelerate as much as possible a reduction in the prevalence of smoking. I sincerely hope that the House will allow the Bill a Second Reading today and will ensure that some of the issues that have been raised --they range widely from health matters to the European directive and to our position in Europe--are debated in Committee.
The Bill strengthens existing legislation on health warnings on cigarette packets and on packets of other tobacco products. By doing that, the effectiveness of health warnings will be increased, thus discouraging people from taking up smoking or, perhaps, from continuing to smoke. The Bill is aimed at young people who contemplate smoking and others who are trying to give up. The Bill reinforces the warning in order to dissuade people from smoking. Conservative Members have said that everybody knows about the health problems of cigarettes and about warnings on packets. If that is the case, why not allow the size of health warnings to be increased? If everybody knows about the health hazards, it would not make much difference. Hon. Members have talked about differences in health warnings. They can see the effectiveness of that in what I am holding up. Warnings that have been increased by 25 per cent. have greater visibility and effect.
The health hazards of smoking are well documented. They were first highlighted in the 1960s. Warnings on cigarette packets date from 1971. We have had health warnings for more than 20 years, but there are still people who insist that smoking has no link to illness, lung cancer, strokes or chronic coronary disease. A letter was
Column 1280circulated recently by the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco--FOREST--in which it said:
"In the first place, we of course differ from them"--
that is, the promoters--
"in contesting the notion that smoking is unique in giving rise to `health hazards'."
We do not say that smoking is unique in causing health hazards. Smoking remains the largest single cause of preventable mortality in this country. That is the point that we want to get across. The 110, 000 smoking-related deaths each year can, to a large extent, be prevented.
The hon. Members for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said that there are no health warnings about excessive alcohol consumption. I do not dispute that for a moment. However, the difference is that cigarettes, when used as the manufacturer directs, cause deaths. We are talking not about the excessive consumption of tobacco but about the consumption of tobacco at any level, which can cause illness, death and so on. The point is the use of the word "excessive".
Mr. Barron: My hon. Friend, like myself, will have received a letter from a Member of the other place, who is the chairman of FOREST, which argues that we should take action against smoking. However, he said that there is also danger in articles such as kitchen knives and electric chainsaws. Does my hon. Friend think that, if a person purchases an electric chainsaw and uses it as the manufacturer says that it should be used, it is hardly likely to cause death?