Examination of Witnesses (Questions 640
THURSDAY 20 JANUARY 2000
MR S CLARK,
MR D SWAN
640 In the light of your answer, would you therefore
come out and oppose anything which seemed to you from the industry
or the advertisers or the marketers to be targeting children or
seemed to be encouraging children to smoke?
(Mr Clark) Absolutely because we do not
want children to smoke. What is happening in society is that we
are becoming almost a child based universe where I have an interest
in protecting children but there comes a point where one has to
look after adult rights as well.
641 I am not talking about adult rights.
(Mr Clark) As soon as people have reached
16, then it is entirely up to them whether or not they continue
642 I am not worried about that but in your memorandum
you sayyour wordsthat children are often "...
coerced into `voluntary' anti-smoking campaigns, agent provocateur
activities against tobacconists and harassment of smoking parents
in a way ominously reminiscent of George Orwell's `Junior Anti-Sex
League'". Those are your words. Is that not rather strong?
If you are seriously telling us that you want to protect children
and that you are only interested in the rights of adult smokers,
then surely it is a bit strong to start accusing people of Orwellian
tactics purely for getting children involved.
(Mr Clark) No, because the tactic of
sending, as some councils have done, in Hampshire for example
and other areas, children into tobacconists to incite them to
break the law by selling cigarettes to children is outrageous.
643 An alternative view would be sending children
into tobacconists to find out whether tobacconists are already
breaking the law.
(Mr Clark) Whichever way you look at
it, it is an incitement and to encourage children to incite people
to break the law is a terrible thing to do. One of the things
I will tell my own children is that if they go into shops and
try to buy cigarettes, they are basically going to be getting
other people into trouble, that is the tobacconist, and it is
simply outrageous to do that.
644 You think it is perfectly reasonable for
tobacconists to break the law and not be caught at it.
(Mr Clark) Of course not. Tobacconists
must be encouraged not to sell. I am a firm believer in giving
kids ID cards. The onus must be on the tobacconist when he does
not know what age somebody is to ask what age they are and they
must be produce an ID card. I am firmly behind the ID card idea
and clearly that will help tobacconists.
645 The final point I should like to make is
that if you are against the idea of children smoking then the
simple question is this. What measures do you think will reduce
the takeup of smoking in those aged under 16?
(Mr Clark) There is a basic problem about
children smoking. One has to live in the real world, be realistic.
I do not think you will ever stop all children smoking. I am not
condoning it, but it is a fact of life that the point about smoking
is that it is an opportunity for children to express their individuality.
It is often down to peer pressure. They see their friends smoking
and they start to smoke. That is why we have been against the
ban on tobacco advertising because I have not been convinced by
the arguments that banning tobacco advertising will actually make
children stop. If you go over the top, and I believe even Tessa
Jowell has admitted this, if you constantly lecture children about
smoking, they will almost certainly go off and do the opposite.
Measures against children smoking could almost be counter productive
because you make tobacco a forbidden fruit, you make it more attractive.
646 I understand why children smoke and the pressures
put on them. We shall talk about that later this morning. I want
to know from you what measures you think we could introduce to
try to reduce the risk of children smoking.
(Mr Clark) I am telling you I honestly
do not know because I think children will always find a way of
647 You do not have any strategy at all that
you can come up with to try to reduce the risk of children smoking.
(Mr Clark) FOREST is interested in adult
rights not children. If we are asked, we will obviously say we
do not want children to smoke, but our whole raison d'e®tre
is to support the adult right to smoke. No, I do not have any
ideas how children can be prevented. If you tell children not
to smoke and really go over the top, as some of the campaigns
in certain schools have done which encouraged children to nag
their parents to give up, for example, I think this is a shocking
thing and children will react against it and it will be counterproductive
and more people will begin to smoke.
Dr Stoate: I accept that entirely but I still
find it very surprising that your organisation does not have any
views currently on what can be done to prevent the epidemic of
smoking in young children which everybody in this room would decry.
648 You referred to the use of children by trading
standards officers. Are you aware that there are very strict guidelines
for the ways in which children may be used in such practices?
(Mr Clark) Maybe there are, but it is
happening and I think inciting anybody to break the law is a very
bad thing to do.
649 If you have read the guidelines, do you think
the use of the word "incitement" is justified?
(Mr Clark) If you send a child into a
tobacconist to try to get the tobacconist to sell tobacco products
to that child, I think that is incitement. I am all for trying
to make sure, if tobacconists are shown to sell tobacco products
to children, that the law is brought down on top of them. You
have to help the tobacconist. It is no good going in. I am not
here to represent tobacconists by the way but you have to help
the tobacconists. A lot of 15 and 16-year-olds can look 17 or
18. It is a very fine line. It is a fact of life and we live in
the real world here.
650 Do you realise there is an age restriction
on the children who may be used, that they have to be younger
(Mr Clark) One could argue that 12-year-olds
can look very old these days, depending on what they are wearing
and all the rest of it.
651 Are you aware that the guidelines say they
must dress appropriately for their age?
(Mr Clark) The guidelines may well say
that but tobacconists are being caught out. I am basically against
652 They are being caught out selling cigarettes
to children under 16.
(Mr Clark) You could help tobacconists
by making sure that kids have ID cards. That seems to me a far
preferable thing to do. The other interesting thing of course
is the contrast between sales of alcohol and cigarettes. As I
understand it, with alcohol, if you are under age and you buy
alcohol, you are committing a crime as well as the person who
is selling it to you. There seems to have been an anomaly with
tobacco products where it is only the person who is doing the
selling who is actually committing an offence. I am the last person
to suggest that the Government brings in the law to make it an
offence to buy tobacco products as well if you are under age,
because the courts would be clogged up with the whole thing and
it would be impossible to police. It is a strange anomaly.
653 Can I come on to your memorandum and freedom
of choice? You have said in your memorandum that the "...
anti-smoking lobby makes much of the finding that 70 per cent
of smokers wish to give up". You remark that "... what
people tell pollsters is quite different from how they behave
in practice". Yet nowhere in your memorandum do you address
the issue of whether smoking is addictive. Why is there this omission
in your evidence and what are your views?
(Mr Clark) I do not claim to be a medical
expert. What we do as far as addiction goes is basically report
what other people say on addiction. May I first of all talk about
the 70 per cent which is constantly thrown in our faces, the 70
per cent of smokers who say they want to give up. I have to say
I treat such polls with enormous suspicion. I do not smoke but
it is fairly obvious that I eat too much and I have a passion
for jam doughnuts. If somebody came up to me and asked whether
I would like to give up jam doughnuts, of course I would say yes,
because I want to lose weight but in practice
654 Let us stick to the issue of addiction. Do
you think jam doughnuts are the same as nicotine in terms of addiction?
(Mr Clark) Let me read what some other
people say, not us. Our job is as a conduit to get across to journalists
and to politicians that there is a variety of views.
655 Do you accept that nicotine is a powerful
(Mr Clark) I do not accept that, not
at all, because I think the word "addiction" is almost
meaningless at the moment. We hear, for example, about Michael
Douglas being addicted to sex. Earlier this week in The Standard
the actress Sarah Lancashire who played Raquel in Coronation Street
said she was addicted to acting. I do not want to be frivolous
but I have even heard that MPs are addicted to mileage allowances.
656 Now you are being frivolous. Our former colleague,
your former colleague, John Carlisle, said in this House
(Mr Swan) Excuse me, I do not believe
John Carlisle is a former colleague of Mr Clark.
(Mr Clark) Let me say on that point that for some
bizarre reason we kept getting correspondence sent to John Carlisle
at our address. We have never been colleagues. That is something
which needs to be sorted out.
657 The point I am making is that he tried to
suggest that tobacco and nicotine were on a par with shopping,
sex and such things. There is powerful medical evidence, and we
have had it from the Royal College of Physicians and others, that
nicotine is a powerful addictive drug. Do you accept that or do
(Mr Clark) May I give you some other
quotes which I like to throw into the pot? This is what our job
is. That is why the role of an organisation like FOREST in a free,
democratic society, is so important because there are always at
least two sides to any story and debate. In a democratic country
it is important that debate takes place and is not dominated by
one side or the other. Let me read you a quote from Professor
Hans Eysenck, who is obviously a world famous psychologist. He
said that smoking is not an addiction because the term addiction
really has no scientific meaning. It is used in so many different
ways that it is almost impossible to attach any meaning to it.
Let me also quote you Dr Macara, who is former chairman of the
British Medical Association, writing in the Western Daily Press
in 1996. Dr Macara said he did not accept that smokers are truly
addicted to tobacco. He thought they had a habit. He did accept
that there are some people who are very seriously inadequate so
that they feel they need the prop of a cigarette. He believed
the majority of smokers could stop tomorrow, no, today if they
really wanted to. That was Dr Macara, former chairman of the British
Medical Association. To be fair to Dr Macara, he later said that
was not what he did say; although I have to say that has shades
of Lord Winston about it. It was actually an article which appeared
under his byline. Our job is to get those types of views across.
It is not us saying we do not believe it is addictive: we simply
report what other people say.
658 May I ask the TMA whether they accept the
medical evidence that nicotine is a powerful addictive drug?
(Mr Swan) I hope I get the opportunity
to answer that question.
659 We are doing our best.
(Mr Swan) You may think so. I am very
concerned that the Committee and anybody else observing these
proceedings will have the belief that Mr Clark is speaking on
behalf of the tobacco manufacturers. That is our job as the trade
association. With respect to Mr Clark, I found his approach to
the issue of children and smoking confusing and I can only believe
they are his own personal opinions; they are not ours. With regard
to the issue of addiction, we too have trouble with the word "addiction".
We are not qualified to make any comment. It is best to address
it to those with the scientific expertise in the companies to
give an account or indeed to advise the Government. If we mean
it is difficult to give up, it probably is for some people. I
think however that in the past and in my own experience, if people
really want to give up, they can, but there are some people who
find it difficult. If that is what we mean by addiction, fine.
I too am aware of some of the scientific papers which seek to
draw parallels between the scientific or medical effect of nicotine
on the individual and illegal substances. I really cannot comment
on that. I just feel it is counter intuitive to me. I do not see
smokers going out and when they run out of cigarettes accosting
vulnerable people and stealing money to get another packet of
cigarettes. I understand that people who are truly addicted to
illegal drugs do involve themselves in crime in order to feed
that habit. If someone is defining it as a similar ballgame in
scientific terms, that may be right scientifically, but I suspect
we are in a different league.