Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660
THURSDAY 20 JANUARY 2000
MR S CLARK,
MR D SWAN
660 If you accept on a definition that you may
be prepared to accept that addiction may be a valid term, there
is evidence that there is a pharmacological dependency. Would
you accept that?
(Mr Swan) I understand there is but I
am really not qualified to come to a judgement.
661 If there were and if a large number of smokers
begin smoking when they are under 16, it does somewhat knock on
the head this notion of freedom of choice for adults, does it
(Mr Swan) Yes, I understand the point,
except that I would stressand Mr Clark referred to Dr Macara's
viewsthat even Professor Peto has said that if people really
want to give up they can. I accept that some people will find
it difficult. I can understand that it might be useful. My own
view is that it may be useful in public health education terms
to advise children that if they start they might later find it
difficult to give up, as well as all the other things they need
to be told. I have a problem with the whole thrust at the moment
of the debate. If I believe and others more expert than myself
believe that it is possible to give up by dint of willpower with
perhaps some support from friends and family, why keep saying
it is difficult to give up? If the public health objective is
to encourage people to give up, why go around telling them it
is difficult? A lot of people have given up. I have a problem
with how that is played, but that is a personal view.
662 Even if we accept this loose definition of
addiction and habit, controversy, certainly the consequences are
very different. We know that 120,000 people die in this country
each year with smoking related illnesses. How many actor related
premature deaths are there in this country or the other addictions
which were mentioned?
(Mr Swan) I do not know anything about
health issues associated with illegal drugs.
663 Mr Clark, your organisation publicises the
rights of smokers. You are in the habit of giving awards to some
organisations when they allow smokers particular rights. Could
you tell me the circumstances in which you made an award to St
James Hospital, Leeds?
(Mr Clark) Yes. What happened in Leeds
as I remember it is that two hospitals in Leedsthe second
hospital was the Leeds Infirmarywere merged together. One
of the hospitals had a complete ban on smoking and the other one
had a smoking area or smoking room. When they were merged they
decided to allow both hospitals to have a smoking room. We basically
gave them an award for what we regarded as a progressive move
because we think banning smoking in hospitals is actually a very
negative thing to do both for staff and patients. It has led in
some cases to patients standing outside hospitals in their pyjamas
around the entrance when casualties have been brought in on stretchers.
It is a bizarre sight. It has also proved to be a fire risk in
some cases because patients have nipped off round the back where
there might be some rubbish and obviously they are throwing their
cigarettes away. We thought in that particular case they were
effectively reversing their ban on smoking. They have said to
us that they are reviewing it all the time, but we saw it as being
a progressive step to allow smokers to have a small area in which
664 I did see the publicity which was given in
Leeds to this and, having views about smoking and whether it should
be allowed in hospitals at all, I took the matter up with the
chief executive of the United Leeds Hospitals Trust. He told me
that he did not believe they had made any difference to the rights
of smokers, that the award was unwelcome and that he had made
it clear the award was unwelcome. Are you aware of that?
(Mr Clark) No, I am not aware of that,
but quite a few of our awards are unwelcome to people who receive
them. We give awards to people who ban smoking in pubs, but it
is a rather negative award shall we say and it gets publicity
and yes, they often find that unwelcome.
665 Certainly the chief executive assured me
that no action they had taken deserved the award.
(Mr Clark) It is a rather sad reflection
of modern society that it is so anti-smoking that a lot of chief
executives in this position feel embarrassed to get an award from
an organisation like FOREST, even though we feel we are upholding
basic values and virtues such as tolerance and common sense. Such
is the anti-smoking hysteria at the moment that chief executives
do feel embarrassed about it and they will not admit that they
are pleased to get that type of thing.
666 I would have thought it was natural that
a hospital, which is concerned after all with public health, would
be very embarrassed by such an award. Certainly I shall report
what has been said to the chief executive of St James. I want
to ask Mr Swan about what he tells us in his submission about
the work of the Harrogate laboratory and its attempts to separate
out the harmful components of tobacco smoke. You state that the
mouse-skin painting experiments which had been conducted for many
years stopped in 1970 following your predecessor body, the Tobacco
Research Council, TRC's conclusion that "... the research
could not provide any conclusive guidance on product modification".
Did the people conducting the research succeed in isolating any
potentially harmful chemicals in the condensate?
(Mr Swan) I do not recall that detail,
though I certainly read quite a few of the papers which were referenced
in our submission. It is important that the Committee understand
something which I think I made a couple of statements on in writing,
that I really have no expertise to allow me to interpret the papers.
What we did, hopefully for the benefit of the Committee, was to
arrange to summarise in a digestible form, the papers which were
produced reporting on the progress of all these activities. I
really would not be able to interpret it for you.
667 Would you be able to give us a written note
on this? Mr Gunnell's question is a very important question from
our point of view.
(Mr Swan) I understand that. I was advised
by the Clerk that you might wish to proceed along these lines.
I really am not able to help you interpret the history: what we
try to do is present it. I cannot really tell you much. I have
brought with me today, if it is at all helpful, two large lever
arch files of publicly available documents which report the progress
of this research. These reports were shared with the appropriate
Government agencies. You will know from the story that everybody
kept changing their name all the way through this. It is fairly
complex. I should be happy to give this to the Clerk if you think
it would be helpful. I am sorry not to be able to satisfy you
668 We all understand that when you condense
what comes from burning tobacco it is a very complex mix chemically
and would contain many different substances. Gallaher told us
in their memorandum that the research had to be abandoned as the
complexity of the task became increasingly apparent. They said
that in 1957 some 20 constituents had been identified in the condensate
but now over 3,500 had been found. It does seem very curious to
abandon this research simply because the detail it reveals is
more and more complex. I would have thought you would in a sense
have been doing similar research now because today's cigarette
would seem to me as lethal as those which were being tested 40
years ago in Harrogate. Therefore nothing has been gained from
this research in terms of getting a safer cigarette.
(Mr Swan) All I gather from the history
is that there was a lot of exchange of information between industry
and government agencies at the time and the government agencies
at that time decided to pursue the track of lower tar. There is
a whole set of agreements associated with the product modification
which leads through to the additives voluntary agreement which
is still around today and which the TMA perhaps monitor with the
Department of Health. The total thrust in terms of the exchange
of scientific information between the Government and industry
just moved off in this direction on tar reduction and that is
all I have gathered from it. I really cannot comment. You would
have to talk to the companies about whether or not they continued
as individuals to do more research on tar condensates and what
their results were. I would not know about that.
669 It certainly seems from the evidence in the
United States that research must have continued there to some
extent because they have worked on getting rid of nitrosamines
from cigarettes and a company called Star claimed to produce cigarettes
which were said to be free from nitrosamines. It would seem to
be unusual if it were possible for the research to lead to a different
product which though it might not be able to be described as safe,
because I do not think any cigarette is safe, it might at least
have a genuinely lower risk and not one which can be compensated
for by the way in which you smoke.
(Mr Swan) I know that the Committee has
started to discuss this with the companies and I can only commend
you to continue that. I really cannot help you in this area.
670 Do you think that is entirely a matter for
the individual companies and not for the association as a whole?
(Mr Swan) Discussions are going on at
the moment which my colleague, Chris Ogden, may wish to comment
(Mr Ogden) As explained, we are not scientists but
we do as an association act as a facilitator to enable the company
scientists to enter into dialogue with Government. Currently a
series of meetings is going on with the Department of Health in
which the company experts are cooperating fully with the Department's
inquiries. I am sure any questions to the officials in the smoking
policy unit at the Department of Health would confirm that for
671 May I be clear? You are leaving some documentation
with us today for us to look at.
(Mr Swan) Yes.
672 You would have no objection to us following
up our concerns with written questions subsequent to this session.
(Mr Swan) No. All I would advise is that
it would be more fruitful if you directed any detailed questions
to the companies because we will not be able to interpret this.
673 Is the Harrogate laboratory still operating?
(Mr Swan) I do not actually know that.
I do not know whether it is or not. I do not think it is; I do
not believe it is. May I come back on one point? You asked whether
or not it is appropriate for the individual companies to pursue
this product modification on an individual basis. We would come
into play if out of these discussions some new regulation, regulatory
format, were put together. Then the industry might work together.
At the moment product modification is really part of the marketing
674 You do not see that as any part of your role
basically. It could be argued to be a very important health issue,
at least from our point of view.
(Mr Swan) We would try to facilitate
that discussion and we are at the moment. The Department of Health
has raised several technical issues with regard to additives and
contents of cigarette smoke and we are facilitating that discussion.
If from that comes a new regulatory proposal, then we would come
into play and make sure that everybody understands it and set
up the framework to make sure that it is observed.
675 What do you believe are the terms of reference
of this Committee? What do you believe this Committee is looking
(Mr Swan) I do not have it with me, but
I think you are investigating the history of smoking and health.
When it became apparent that there were health risks associated
with smoking, what did the companies know in the past, what did
the Government know, what have they done, reviewing that whole
issue in terms of public health and the effectiveness of public
health policy. In broad terms I think that is what you are about.
676 So you accept and you understand that a major
facet of this inquiry is based around the health risks of smoking.
(Mr Swan) Yes.
677 You understood that when you submitted written
evidence to this Committee.
(Mr Swan) We take it as a basic premise
in our industry that the Government and medical experts advise
us that there are
678 No, you are going off on a different track
I am afraid. You understood that this Committee was looking into
the health risks of smoking when you submitted and drew together
your submission to this Committee.
(Mr Swan) Yes.
679 Why is it then that your submission deals
virtually not at all with the risks of smoking?
(Mr Swan) We do not have the expertise
to comment on the issue like smoking and health. That is an issue
which the member companies choose to speak about on an individual
basis. They do not require us to speak on their behalf. It is
a trade association. We speak on behalf of our member companies
as they require. They do not require us to speak on this issue,
nor do we have the expertise to make any helpful comment.