Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Imperial Tobacco Group PLC




  138.  Imperial produces tobacco products to meet the demands of adults who choose to smoke with knowledge of the risks associated with smoking. Imperial does not encourage or want children to smoke.

Prevention of under-age smoking

  139.  Imperial has agreed with Government many initiatives to prevent under-age smoking. For example, from 1986, voluntary agreements saw progressively tighter restrictions on the placement of advertisements near schools or buildings which may be used by people under 18 years old.

  140.  Imperial has participated in and helped to fund several major initiatives aimed at preventing children from smoking. In addition, Imperial has taken steps to reduce the access of children to tobacco products. Research carried out in about 1984 indicated that 88 per cent of retailers were aware of the legal restrictions on cigarette sales to under 16s. In 1986, it was estimated that there were some 200,000 tobacco retail outlets of all types in the UK, many of whom purchased cigarette supplies from wholesalers or "cash-and-carries". Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies cannot compel retailers to observe the law. However, what Imperial can and has done is to engage in initiatives, supported by the Government, to increase awareness of and to encourage compliance with the law. Regrettably, children under 16 years old are still able to purchase cigarettes.

  141.  In 1981, the TAC undertook a major campaign to distribute point-of-sale material to retail outlets, such as notices stating that under 16s should not ask for cigarettes and that sales to children were illegal. In 1984, a further campaign aimed at retailers was conducted by the TAC in conjunction with all retail and wholesale associations whose members sold tobacco products.

  142.  In 1986, Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies committed themselves to spending £1 million per annum in conducting a campaign with the retail trade at points-of-sale and in the media to encourage support for the law against under-age sales. The campaign operated from 1986 to 1989 with Imperial providing approximately 40 per cent of the campaign funding. The campaign aimed not only to educate retailers but also to increase awareness of the law among the general public, and particularly amongst children. As a result of the campaign, research showed that the number of tobacco retail outlets displaying notices concerning the law was increased from 24 per cent in 1986 to about 80 per cent of principal retail outlets by the end of the campaign in 1989 and that retail awareness was nearly universal.

  143.  In 1991, the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act was enacted to strengthen the law in relation to sales of cigarettes to under 16s. In order to support the Government's tougher legislation, in January 1992, the TAC sent an information pack to retailers explaining the new law and later sent retailers the statutory notices which they were required to display. The TAC also provided a telephone information service to give assistance to retailers.

  144.  In 1997, a pilot campaign was launched by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents ("NFRN") in the Northeast of England. This was called "No Excuses" and was both financially and operationally supported by Imperial and the other UK tobacco companies. The campaign received prominent newspaper publicity and the public support of local MPs. Campaign packs were sent to NFRN members, schools and supermarkets and there was also press advertising to raise awareness among parents and the general public. Staff training was available to NFRN members and a "stop n' tel" freephone hotline was made available so that infringements of the law could be reported and passed on by the hotline to trading standards officers. The campaign was widely supported by parents, teachers and other community bodies, but was not expanded because of a recognition that without proof of age its success would be limited.

  145.  In 1999, the TMA has, together with other commercial organisations, launched a non-profit scheme operated through retailers, schools and a website to make available to children and young adults a proof of age "CitizenCard" which has the benefit of a photograph. The card will enable retailers to comply with all laws restricting sales of particular products to those over the specified age.

Public awareness of the risks associated with smoking

  146.  Since the 1950s, there has been considerable public and media interest in and discussion about smoking and health issues.

  147.  The results of major studies in the field of smoking and health and reports from scientific, medical and public health bodies such as the MRC, RCP and the US Surgeon General's Committee received extensive coverage in the newspapers, and on television and radio.

  148.  From the late 1950s, the Government and public health bodies have, by means of a series of public health initiatives and statements, informed the public about the risks associated with smoking, and have encouraged adults not to smoke, or at least to reduce their smoking, and children not to smoke at all. Early examples of their actions include:

    —  The issue by the Ministry of Education in 1956 of a handbook called "Health Education in Schools" which directed schools to instruct children about the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, a copy of which was given to all school leavers.

    —  Local health and education authorities throughout the country, who until 1974 had statutory responsibility for health education, conducted local health education campaigns highlighting the danger associated with smoking. These campaigns were targeted at both adults and children by means of advertising, pamphlets, flyers, television features, meetings and anti-smoking clinics.

    —  The 1962 RCP Report was immediately circulated to local education authorities and the Minister of Education asked for the co-operation of the authorities, teachers and all who worked with children to warn the young in "every possible way of the dangers to their future health of smoking . . . and [to] discourage [them] from starting the smoking habit". [159] Lessons about smoking and health were introduced in schools as part of the regular curriculum. The Ministry of Health issued two posters in May 1962 warning of the dangers associated with smoking and two more posters featuring teenagers were prepared by the Ministry of Education for use in schools and youth clubs.

    —  Mobile units were launched by the Minister of Health with full newspaper, TV and radio coverage. The units travelled up and down the country giving film shows, lectures and demonstrations concerning the dangers associated with smoking. The main emphasis of the campaign was directed to young audiences in schools and youth clubs.

  149.  From 1971, initially by agreement with Imperial and other UK tobacco companies and since 1992 under European legislation, Government health warnings have appeared on cigarette packets.

  150.  As a result of this media reporting and action by Government and public health bodies since the 1950s, smokers have been made aware of the risks associated with smoking. Those adult smokers who choose to start or continue smoking do so with knowledge of this information.

  151.  Government and health bodies have consistently advised against smoking and over 10 million smokers in the UK and millions more elsewhere have stopped. While some smokers might have difficulty in stopping, Imperial believes that smokers are able to stop smoking if they choose to do so.


  152.  Imperial believes that smoking is a matter for informed adult choice. About 15 million UK smokers exercise their choice on a regular basis to continue to smoke.

  153.  Imperial does not encourage or want children to smoke and supports measures to prevent them from smoking.

159   Enoch Powell orders new "Don't Smoke" Campaign, 13 March 1962 Daily Express, page 6. Back

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