Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580
THURSDAY 13 JANUARY 2000
580. Could I just say before you answer, I am
conscious we have kept you here for almost three hours now. I
hope to finish by 1.30 so could you be brief with your answers
because we have one or two more questions after this. If you could
be sharp with your answers I would be very grateful.
(Mr Broughton) I do not know that research. It totally
contradicts the research which I have quoted to Mr Gunnell.
(Mr Wilson) It may depend on the form in which the
nicotine was administered. I am totally unaware of that research.
(Mr David Davies) I am not familiar with it.
(Mr Gareth Davis) No. I am not aware of it.
(Dr Gietz) I am not aware of that research but to
equate heroin and cocaine to nicotine I think flies in the face
of common sense.
581. Can I go back to this question of choice.
I am an informed adult who chooses not to use cigarettes but if
we had finished at one I would have gone down to the cafeteria
for my lunch where I would not have had such a choice as to whether
I consume tobacco smoke or not. I want to move to the question
of environmental tobacco smoke. We have heard some comment about
whether there is evidence of cause or not. There is no agreed
evidence that cigarette smoke causes asthma, for example, but
if you talk to the National Asthma Campaign the most common story
that comes from children with asthma is that cigarette smoke is
the principal trigger of their asthma attack. It may not have
caused it but it triggered it. There has been a report by the
Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, The SCOTH Report.
I want to ask you if you accept the findings of the SCOTH Report
which state "... exposure to environmental tobacco smoke
is a cause of lung cancer ... a cause of heart diseases ... smoking
in the presence of infants and children is a cause of serious
respiratory illness and asthmatic attacks. Sudden infant death
syndrome ... is associated with exposure to ETS". Would you
accept the findings of the SCOTH Report and, if not, on what grounds
would you reject them?
(Mr Wilson) I think the answer to your question is
no. There have been numerous studies done on the impact on lung
cancer and other diseases of environmental tobacco smoke. By far
the majority of those studies show no statistical association
between environmental tobacco smoke and those diseases. Now, having
said that, I would recognise also totally that for some people
a smoky room or tobacco smoke is unpleasant and annoying and an
inconvenience. It is a question of how smoky. You put someone
into a very smoky room, they get runny eyes and other things that
are unpleasant, that is different and that does need to be addressed.
The best way of addressing that is through good common sense between
adults and, of course, where practical, good ventilation in the
accommodation where people have to be.
582. Would you describe an asthmatic attack
as an unpleasant annoyance or a serious risk to health?
(Mr Wilson) An asthmatic attack is, of course, extremely
unpleasant and there are all sorts of atmospheres which an asthmatic
should avoid. I am accepting, certainly, that environmental tobacco
smoke is annoying, can cause this kind of unpleasantness but not
lung cancer, heart disease, etc, which you have listed also because
the evidence does not indicate that it does.
583. The Scientific Committee produced evidence
also to show that long term exposure to tobacco smoke does increase
the risk. Do you dispute that?
(Mr Wilson) The evidence that I am aware of of all
the studies that have been carried out, by far the majority show
no statistical association.
584. Can I ask why the tobacco manufacturers
have taken legal action against the Scientific Committee and what
stage those proceedings are at?
(Mr Gareth Davis) Sorry, could you be specific?
585. The tobacco manufacturers have taken legal
action against SCOTH.
(Mr Gareth Davis) Judicial review.
586. That is legal action, is it not?
(Mr Gareth Davis) Yes.
587. Can you tell us why?
(Mr Broughton) My recollection, and others here may
have a different recollection, is because the industry was not
consulted and, therefore, in terms of form, the position is that
we believed that it would have been better and more appropriate
and it actually required an approach to consult the industry.
588. Would you be willing to clarify this point
prior to our next session?
(Mr Broughton) Certainly.
589. There is possibly some doubt about this
and we need to be absolutely sure.
(Mr Wilson) I think that Mr Broughton is broadly right.
590. If you could provide the grounds on which
you have sought a judicial review.
(Mr Broughton) Yes.
591. Can I ask Dr Gietz a question because in
your memorandum you state that you have co-operated with the Scientific
Committee but in your memorandum you do not mention the legal
proceedings which have been brought against you. Are you a party
to those proceedings?
(Dr Axel Gietz) We have co-operated with SCOTH, as
we have in the past with other Government bodies or agencies in
this country and in other countries. In the framework of our associate
membership with what is called today the TMA as we have a very
small market share in this country, we are an associate member
and through the TMA we have been in contact, in exchanges with
SCOTH and other Government bodies or agencies. As far as the question
to my colleague or previous questions to him, as far as I rememberbut
my British colleagues are probably better equipped to answer itit
was the process by which SCOTH conducted their investigation and
reached these conclusions which we did not agree with that led
the British industry to take these legal steps.
592. But you are a party to those legal proceedings?
(Dr Gietz) I would have to double check. I honestly
do not know.
593. Perhaps you can check.
(Dr Gietz) Yes.
594. Your answer to that question determines
my next question.
(Dr Gietz) Again, we have a minute market share so
the motivation of bigger companies I guess would be stronger than
ours. I will find out.
595. Can I ask one or two quick questions on
the issue of Government regulation. Is it correct to say that
the only significant Government regulation dealing with the constituents
of cigarettes has been directed towards reducing tar and nicotine
yields? Would you accept that?
(Mr Wilson) No. I think the Government regulation
on our products comes from all sorts of different directions.
596. Could you be specific as to what they are
as you see them?
(Mr Wilson) The tar and nicotine yields is one of
them, the whole question of additives is another area of regulation
from the Department of Health. There are numerous voluntary agreements
concerning what we can do and what we cannot do by way of promotion.
Going back over the years which our submission and other people's
submissions have summarised, we are subject to a very high degree
of regulation in many aspects of our commercial life.
597. Can I come specifically to Mr Broughton
because I was interested in his company's evidence, page 76, paragraph
325. In a sense you reflected on this point in an answer you gave
earlier on. You talk about the alternatives in terms of what the
Government should do on the issue of smoking. "The alternatives
range from a laissez faire approach (ie given the level
of available information, leave it to the market to sort out)
to a social engineering approach (where the Government intervenes
in the personal lawful lifestyle choices of its citizens and drives
them to make lifestyle choices that the Government believes are
worthy)." In the context of smoking I am interested in that
particular point because as politicians we are charged on numerous
occasions with legislation that is going through here that relates
to what might be termed lifestyle choices and social engineering.
Would you have reservations about the steps, for example, that
were taken here in recent years on the requirement to use crash
helmets when motorcyclists are riding around or seat belts in
cars when people are driving around or the breathalyser legislation?
Would you regard that as being a restriction on lifestyle choices?
If you do not then how do you distinguish between that area and
the issue of smoking?
(Mr Broughton) If the line had been to prevent people
from driving, for example, I would have said that was a dramatic
step. Asking them to wear a seat belt I see as a completely different
aspect of the issue.
598. What you are saying is that the Government
is not presenting people from smoking effectively?
(Mr Broughton) That is the first point. I do not think
that it is the role of Government as a generalised statement to
dictate to individuals every aspect of what they do with their
lives. I think the general "nanny-ism" approach of trying
to tell everybody exactly what they should do is not the role
of Government. To encourage people, to advise people on all types
of lifestylealcohol, exercise, dietI think it is
right to make people aware and to know what the various risks
and consequences are, that is the role of Government. To tell
people what they can do and cannot do in that respect is rather
599. One of the first questions I asked at the
outset was in respect of your legal duty to produce a safe product.
I think you accepted that you had a legal duty to produce as safe
a product as possible. If you are talking now about the motorcar
analogy, if you produced as a motor manufacturer a vehicle on
which the brakes did not work and people were killed as a consequence
then something would be done about that, the vehicle would be
withdrawn or some steps would be taken of a very serious nature
by the manufacturers or by the Government. Is there not an analogy
here in that you produce a product that kills people and in circumstances
that are very similar, whether it may be a motor vehicle or some
other product that resulted in people being harmed physically
or even being killed, then some pretty serious steps would have
been taken about that product's availability given that six million
are dead in this country and the time that we have known about
the connections, you have known about the connections, the working
hypothesis that Mr Broughton quoted that has been around from
the 1950s. We have had ministerial statements in here from 1954,
yet in that time six million people have died directly related
(Mr Wilson) We work on the premise that people are
going to continue to smoke whatever we do, that is a fact. They
should be informed, and they are informed of the risks they are
taking but unless it is being suggestedwhich I have never
seriously heard suggestedthat smoking should be banned,
the best thing that we can do is to ensure that people are aware
of the risks, that we take whatever steps we can to ensure that
children who are not old enough to make these judgments do not
have access to cigarettes and to do what we can to try continuously
to improve the quality of our products.