Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Harvey: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point when he says that fashion has a great deal to do with this subject. Surely it is almost the raison d'etre of a great part of the advertising industry to cultivate an idea of fashion. Although teenagers adopt fads and trends to do with all sorts of things that are not commercially advertised, I do not believe that the advertising of products plays no part in determining fashions. It seems self-evident that advertising plays a huge role in doing just that.

The Government ought to be pursuing an agreement for a global ban. I was interested in the point made by the former Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, that so many

22 Jan 2001 : Column 677

cigarettes are exported to developing countries. A few years ago, when I was travelling on the upper deck of a double-decker bus in Jakarta, I struggled to determine whether the pollution was greater outside or inside the bus. As I looked around at my fellow passengers, I noticed that I was the only person on the entire upper deck of the bus not smoking a cigarette. The fact is that, as the going has got tougher in the developed world markets, the tobacco industry is devoting more of its efforts to selling into developing countries.

There is definitely a need for international effort. Pictures of sporting events taking place in countries with no tobacco advertising ban in place will continue to be transmitted to this country. Of 17 venues for Formula 1 racing, only two countries--the United Kingdom, with its current voluntary agreement, and France--prohibit tobacco advertising. So 15 of the 17 venues will continue to carry sponsorship. A global agreement on sporting sponsorship, reached at the World Health Organisation, would have the acceptance of the FIA--the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile--which will, in any case, phase out tobacco sponsorship of Formula 1 and world rally championships by the end of 2006. That might be achieved sooner if we engaged in negotiations with the FIA; otherwise, it will be at least six years before exposure to such motor-racing sponsorship is ended.

Without concerted efforts to create an international agreement, it will take much longer to end other types of sporting sponsorship. At the world health assembly, 191 countries agreed to commence negotiations on the framework convention on tobacco control. That offers encouragement for an international effort.

I am concerned about how the Secretary of State and Ministers with responsibility for Scottish matters will interpret advertising at the point of sale. Shops and kiosks are allowed to display products, which they typically do around the till. Will guidelines cover the precise size and location of displays? The lesson from New Zealand and elsewhere is that manufacturers exploit lax regulations. Price lists are blown up to a huge size and are displayed beside counters. Perspex counters are packed with cigarette packets. Shops and kiosks use lighting to display and highlight brand colours.

We need to be clear about what the regulations will mean for direct mailing; manufacturers will test the rules unless they are made explicit. Will a tobacco company be able to mail people whose names are on lists bought from other companies? In many cases, forms and surveys warn that information will be passed on to interested parties unless a box is ticked. If the box is not ticked, will that be allowed to be seen as an expression of interest in a particular brand? If the brand is mentioned in the box caveat--meaning, "We will pass this information on to a particular tobacco company if you do not tick this box"--how will that work under the regulations? The detail is most important.

Under the proposals, manufacturing companies will be able to sponsor events as long as they do not use the name of their brand. However, if cigarette companies can increase consumers' awareness of their products, will not that enable manufacturers to promote their brands more effectively? If, for example, the name of the company is the same as that of its brand, will it still be able to sponsor an event? As we have already heard, certain tobacco

22 Jan 2001 : Column 678

companies use their brand name for completely different products. It will be important to consider those developments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) mentioned websites. They should be subject to close regulation, although there is good will. We should ensure that such regulation is effective.

I hope that the Government's estimate that the advertising ban could reduce tobacco consumption by 2 or 3 per cent. will prove to be correct--indeed, I hope that consumption will fall further than that. Such a worthwhile advance would fully justify the legislation. If the UK tobacco trade experienced a fall in turnover of £300 million a year--a drop in its profits of about £20 million a year--that would be welcome, especially if there was a concomitant saving for the national health service of between £20 million and £40 million a year.

No one knows exactly what the effects of a ban would be. When the Conservative spokesman, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), was challenged by one of his colleagues, he said that, in future, the Conservative view would be evidence-based and that the test would be whether a ban had brought about a dramatic fall in tobacco consumption.

Mr. Chope: Has the hon. Gentleman seen the letter to Private Eye from Mr. Michael Stewart, who, having analysed tobacco consumption in the 22 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development from 1964 to 1990 in order to estimate the effect of advertising bans in six of those countries, concluded that the consumption of tobacco had increased by 4 per cent as a result?

Mr. Harvey: I do not understand how consumption could have increased "as a result." I would take issue with the use of the phrase. There has certainly been an increase around the world, and such things have followed different trends and patterns at various times. I acknowledge that none of us knows exactly what the impact will be but, unlike the Conservative spokesman, I do not believe that the test should be a dramatic decrease in smoking; even a modest decrease would mean that the Bill had been a price well worth paying.

If only a few lives were saved or a few families were spared the misery of seeing one of their loved ones die a horrible, lingering death, it would be worth while. If people avoided having to undergo expensive and particularly nasty treatments and if that resulted in only a small saving to the national health service, it would be worth while. The suggestion is that the poor tobacco companies will have their freedom of expression curtailed, but that is a small price to pay, even if only a few lives can be saved and just a little misery avoided.

5.6 pm

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): It is good to speak in the House once again and to see my old friends and comrades who have campaigned on this issue and proposed similar legislation over the years. It is also good to see their labours coming to fruition.

I hope that you will not be upset, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I digress slightly. This important Bill deals with a totally devolved matter--the advertising of tobacco products--yet it is being fully handled by this Parliament,

22 Jan 2001 : Column 679

and rightly and properly, too. It is being handled under the convention proposed in the other place by Lord Sewel. He gave an undertaking that legislation on devolved matters would be dealt with by this Parliament only after the approval of the devolved Assemblies. That is a splendid, courteous and decent way to deal with such matters, and everyone in this Parliament is to be congratulated on doing so now, as we will benefit from the fact that we will not have our time taken up with such complex legislation. When people complained about the devolved Assemblies, they used to ask whether we would have two Bills a year. It is clear to me now that Scottish legislation was piggy-backed on to an immense number of Bills, so it is good that the Sewel mechanism is still available to us and that we are given powers under it.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): Surely all Scottish law has to comply with the European convention on human rights. One of the reasons why the Scottish Parliament decided not to introduce its own ban--with which many people would agree--was that such an Act was considered to be non-compliant with the convention and, therefore, had to be introduced via Westminster.

Mr. Galbraith: No, that had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was all to do with the fact that advertising does not respect boundaries; it does not suddenly stop when one crosses a boundary. As with many matters, it was agreed that it was important to have exactly the same regime on both sides of the border, with minor variations. That is correct and appropriate for many matters. Something similar is happening in another place tonight on stem cell research--a non-devolved matter, provisions on which must apply to both areas. Even when such matters are devolved, it may be necessary that we act together, and I am grateful to everyone for doing so now.

I am particularly pleased to speak tonight because, as a Scottish Office Minister, I led the United Kingdom delegation in the European Union when the directive that we thought would solve the problem was passed. The matter was easily and speedily dealt with when the blocking efforts of the Conservative party and its cronies were ended. The directive went through on the nod, and we thought that our dreams had been realised and everything had been sewn up. Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case. I am grateful to the Government for bringing the matter before us once again.

In my speeches, especially those on such matters, I usually like to go into detail and cite the scientific evidence and facts. However, my guns have been spiked by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who dealt at some length with the detailed facts.

When we are at a loss for something to say, we sometimes fall back on moral outrage and rhetoric about how bad, antisocial and deplorable smoking is and how we must stop it. I feel some emotion in that respect because, as one who has had a lung transplant and has grossly impaired lung function, it pains me greatly to see those who should have normal lung function damaging it. However, what really annoys me is the tobacco companies trying to convince people that they should damage their lungs, impair their lung function and reduce their quality of life. That is as close as I come to any expression of moral outrage about the subject.

We have heard the figures concerning the problems and costs of smoking and the number of people in this country who die each year from smoking--100,000, and 10,000

22 Jan 2001 : Column 680

of those live in Scotland--so there is no need for me to repeat them. However, in the context of public health, when we are considering how to prevent an individual from doing something and thereby increase his life expectancy, we have to remember that the issues are multi-faceted and that we have to use many different tools.

Many of the things we do that harm our health and that we want to stop are related to our position in society--in other words, social class predetermines people's actions. That is often related to wealth and various other factors. We should constantly remind ourselves that, when dealing with prevention and promotion, the most important thing we can do is to improve an individual's status, well-being and economic position in life.

When people ask me how much we have spent on public health promotion, I am always sure to include the £5 billion that has been spent on the new deal. Giving someone a job, providing structure, and giving them a stake and a future in society are all about health promotion, because they give that individual an interest in society and in living and fighting for the future, and a reason not to indulge in harmful and health-damaging practices such as smoking and other forms of abuse.

It is necessary but not sufficient to address that important aspect of the problem: even if we do all that, we still have a job to do in many other respects. We know that many people want to give up smoking and that many try; the number of those who want to continue to smoke is limited. As the Conservative spokesman said, giving up must be part of a comprehensive anti-smoking strategy. We have such a strategy in place, but people still continue to smoke or take up the habit.

The next line of attack comes under the broad heading of education and knowledge--setting out the facts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) talked about that, but the Opposition decried such efforts, saying that no good is done by talking about mortality or morbidity, and that until the Government get their policy right, we will make no inroads into the problem. That underestimates the value of making clear to people the outcomes of smoking, especially when that is done in connection with raising people's status in society and making them realise that they have a future. Such efforts are important, although their impact is to some extent limited--we all know those who work with people who are dying, whose legs are falling off, who are suffering heart attacks or cancer, but who continue to smoke themselves.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) says that it is important to get the right message to the right group of people, so that we do not talk to them about things that are not part of their experience. The hon. Gentleman comes from Scotland, so I shall be parochial for a moment and suggest that he watches the recent anti-smoking advertising campaign used by the Health Education Board for Scotland: it is a pop video showing young women smoking and men running away from them. HEBS has an excellent track record in getting its advertising absolutely right, and I commend to every hon. Member the HEBS anti-smoking campaign for young women.

Next Section

IndexHome Page