|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Coupons are to be banned under clause 8. I hope that the Minister will look into that in Committee, because it is capable of differing interpretations. The idea is that it is wrong to have coupons because they promote the product, but the incentives industry would say that they are there to reward loyalty.
I note that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is laughing, but the fact is that coupons tie people to a brand over a long period. There is a finely balanced argument about whether people smoke more in order to collect more coupons. If the Government's argument about price is justified, people cannot afford to smoke more, and the industry's research does not come to that conclusion. Manufacturers seek to defend their market share, and if the market overall is diminishing, they seek to do so all the more.
Many other products--teabags, toothpaste, breakfast cereals--have promotional product attached to them from time to time that is focused on keeping people loyal and stopping them purchasing the cheaper alternative with a Tesco, Sainsbury's or Asda label.
Mr. Dobson: My understanding is that the coupons are there to keep people buying what they have been buying. As one of the biggest problems with an addiction is that it is hard to get off it, surely we do not need a commercial incentive for people to stay on the product. Perhaps we could come up with a coupon that is redeemable only when one gives up.
Mr. Greenway: That is a contradiction in terms. Many people have given up cigarette smoking--and the more the merrier. The people who collect the coupons are regular smokers who stick to the same brand in order to get their bone china or their television. The impact on their smoking habit is at most negligible.
The industry has accepted that the Government want to ban the coupons, so to that extent the argument is over. I made my point simply to draw attention to the fact that measures can have unforeseen adverse consequences.
The voluntary agreement largely regulated sports sponsorship for many years. I believe that it contributed hugely to the reduction in smoking over recent years. The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) who, sadly, is not in his place, raised the question of the taskforce. I would like to contrast the fortunes of various sports, all of which are reliant on tobacco sponsorship.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned Formula 1 motor racing. From what has been said, one wonders why it has been given an extension. We understand that the global argument is the reason. Formula 1 and snooker have been given until 2006--continuing with existing sponsorships; they cannot have new ones--to find alternative sponsors.
That contrasts sharply with the world of darts, which has to terminate its present arrangements by 2003. A few months ago, I received a letter from the British Darts Organisation, and the position has not changed since then. It referred to the taskforce and to the unfairness of the situation. The general secretary/director, Olly Croft, made this point:
It seems to me, and to many others who have considered the matter, that it is perverse for the Government to say that two sports are global and can have the extension to 2006, while other sports, such as darts and one or two others that have been mentioned, cannot. I hope that the Government will reconsider that issue.
I believe that clause 9 is capable of conflicting interpretation. In all these sponsorships, the products themselves are not promoted. In many instances, the name of the tobacco manufacturer is promoted, rather than the product.
I am concerned that when promotional activity comes to an end, the health warnings that have been associated with it--particularly in sport--in recent years will also come to an end. It is important that the Government appreciate that if they introduce a complete ban on all tobacco advertising and sponsorship, they will also have to introduce substantial advertising in relation to the health issue. I share the thoughts of some Labour Members and of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends about the evil of tobacco and of smoking.
Much has been said about young people, particularly girls, smoking. It flies in the face of logic to think that Imperial Tobacco sponsoring the world darts championships somehow encourages teenage girls to smoke cigarettes. I cannot see the link. It is much more likely that young girls think that smoking is cool and regard it as a way of keeping their weight down. They do not see the promotional material associated with sports; rather, in every television programme that they watch, young women of their age and slightly older--the people they look up to--smoke cigarettes as part of the plot. Earlier, we heard that even catwalk models have a cigarette in their hand--to show glamour.
The Government have a duty to examine such matters. If they believe that influences such as advertising, promotions and so on encourage smoking, they must pay attention to all the behaviours that persuade young people to smoke.
Mr. David Taylor: If the Government were to pursue the course outlined by the hon. Gentleman and dissuade the arts and entertainment industry from such product exposure, is it not possible that Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen and Daily Mail leader writers would leap to their word processors and describe that as the latest example of iniquitous political correctness?
Mr. Greenway: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but our society discourages the showing on prime-time television of a number of behaviours. I merely make the point that it is illogical for the Government to single out advertising and promotions where clearly there is no link between that vulnerable age group and the activity that they want to ban, while other activities--as the House in general agrees--do encourage such young people to smoke.
Mr. Greenway: I have made that point. I suppose that I am trying to make two points at the same time. The first is that what the Government have singled out is not the cause of the problem that they want to solve. The second is that, if the Government are serious about solving the problem, that relationship is one of the matters that must be tackled.
There is a third element: whatever the provisions of the Bill, the tobacco industry will rightly find other forms of promotion to ensure awareness of the major manufacturers. For example, the Bill would permit Imperial Tobacco to sponsor a production by Opera North in Leeds--heaven knows the company could do with the money--
Mr. Greenway: Carmen would be a good choice. However, all that Imperial Tobacco could show was that the production was sponsored by Imperial Tobacco--for that small mercy, we give much thanks. Imperial Tobacco would not be able to blazon its name all around the Grand Theatre--nor would it want to do so.
Given that this matter has a European origin, there is real concern in sport--as well as in other organisations--that, when the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship is a done deal, the Government will turn their attention to something else, and that that could well be alcohol. When the Secretary of State responded to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), he rightly said that alcohol in moderation does not pose the same problems as tobacco. The case for a ban on alcohol advertising and promotion could not be made on the basis of those criteria. However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, or the Under-Secretary in winding up the debate, can assure the House that the Government realise that a similar draconian ban on alcohol promotion would be a disaster for many sports.
It is interesting that Carling has given up its sponsorship of the premier league, but the only real bidder to take over as sponsor is Budweiser--another drinks manufacturer. One of the world's premier steeplechases is sponsored by Martell. The House must be alert to the damage that would be done if such sponsorships were ended. That damage goes way beyond any case that has been made by those who support the ban.
I have made it clear that I personally regard smoking as a distasteful habit. I would not worry if everyone gave up smoking. However, a ban on the promotion of any legal product raises a difficult issue of principle. That principle is conceded in the Bill. Tobacco is a legal product, yet the House is being asked to ban its promotion and advertisement. That leaves wide open the prospect that the same argument will be extended to other products.
My personal view is that strengthened voluntary codes, which has achieved much so far, would have been preferable. I hope that the Government achieve their modest but important objective of a 2.5 per cent. cut in tobacco smoking, although I suspect that they might have achieved it any way and that, if they do not, it will be