Previous SectionIndexHome Page

The Minister for Public Health (Yvette Cooper): I welcome the opportunity to wind up what has been a detailed and thorough debate on the Bill. We have had some informed contributions, and I pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) for his speech on the impact of advertising on children, for his work in setting in train a lot of the action on smoking and for his work on health inequalities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) mentioned the marketing strategies of the tobacco industry. I thank the Health Committee for its work on eliciting fascinating and comprehensive information from the tobacco companies. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron)--who was the first to propose a private Member's Bill on the subject--made a strong argument about the evidence in favour of a ban on advertising. My hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) welcomed the fact that the Scottish Parliament decided to act under the Sewel convention for United Kingdom-wide legislation.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery) who, against the views of those on his Front Bench, referred to the health risks of smoking, particularly in pregnancy and to those with asthma. I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) about the strong evidence in favour of a ban. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), the hon. Gentleman raised the issue of global action. I certainly support that and we are taking that initiative forward through the World Health Organisation. He raised a series of points that we will discuss in Committee, although I will try to cover them in the time that I have left.

The hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) referred to statistics. I can tell him that the biennial surveys of smoking have become annual from 2000; that will help us to get more up-to-date information. I am happy to look at further proposals to improve the information available to us.

The hon. Members for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) and for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) refused to accept the evidence that exists and decided instead to defend the freedom of the tobacco companies to promote their lethal product in any way they choose.

My hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey), for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) and for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins), as well as the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan), set out the benefits of the advertising ban.

The hon. Members for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) used a curious argument; we should not ban tobacco advertising as we would be getting rid of the warnings as well. If the tobacco companies thought that the combined effect of their advertising and the warnings was to reduce tobacco consumption, they would pull their advertisements. We only need the warnings because we have to handle £100 million of tobacco advertising.

22 Jan 2001 : Column 746

Mr. Evans: Does it not enforce our case that tobacco advertising is intended to influence brand switching, whereas the warning has the benefit of reducing consumption?

Yvette Cooper: That is nonsense and I will come later to the issue of tobacco advertising increasing consumption.

The hon. Members for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) did their best, but once their party decided, in the words of the hon. Member for Woodspring, to choose the tobacco industry rather than public health, they were always going to find it rather sticky to come up with health arguments to defend their case.

Dr. Fox: I hope that the hon. Lady will take that back, because I did not at any point say that we had chosen the tobacco industry rather than public health. What I said was quite the reverse, and she knows it. She should apologise for that clear distortion.

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Gentleman said a month ago that, faced with the choice between the tobacco industry and public health, he felt that public health should take priority. The evidence presented throughout the debate has shown that public health will derive huge benefit from a ban on tobacco advertising, and the hon. Gentleman has clearly chosen the interests of the tobacco industry over the interests of public health.

I shall come to the hon. Gentleman's claims about the wonders of the voluntary agreement, and the question of whether tobacco advertising affects children, in a minute. Let us start with a few facts. The hon. Gentleman claimed that the number of smokers fell throughout the Conservative Administration and rose under Labour. In 1948, 52 per cent. of the population were smokers. That proportion fell steadily for 46 years, until, in 1994--under the Conservative Government--it stopped falling.

In 1994, while Conservative Ministers were talking about the importance of voluntary agreements and opposing an advertising ban in Europe, the trend of 46 years stopped. Between 1994 and 1996, under the Tory Government, smoking prevalence rose for the first time since 1948, from 26 per cent. to 28 per cent. So much for the hon. Gentleman's marvellous voluntary agreement and his party's marvellous smoking policy.

The latest figures, which cover the first year of the Labour Government, show smokers falling from 28 per cent. to 27 per cent. of the population in 1998. It is true that smoking among young people has continued to rise, but it has been rising since 1992. It rose throughout the whole of the previous Parliament.

I agree that the causes of the rises and falls in the numbers of smokers are complex and many. However, the difference between the Labour party and the Conservatives is that the Conservatives believe that we should carry on with the Tory policies that were no longer bringing smoking rates down. They were policies that left smoking rates rising and failed to address the deep-rooted inequalities related to smoking.

The Government believe that that is just not enough, and that we have to do more to ensure that the falls in smoking are echoed across every group in society. That is why we are rolling out the biggest programme of publicly

22 Jan 2001 : Column 747

funded smoking cessation in Europe, with Zyban and--shortly, I hope--nicotine replacement therapy available on prescription. That is also why we are funding major sustained health education campaigns, with particular support for pregnant women and ethnic minorities, and why we have--for good reason--introduced the Bill to ban tobacco advertising.

Many hon. Members have described the links between smoking and ill health. Each year, 120,000 people die in the United Kingdom--more than 13 people every hour--from illnesses caused by smoking. Smoking is also one of the biggest causes of the health inequalities that pervade our society.

Mr. Bob Russell: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Gentleman did not contribute during the debate, and I must try to respond to all the points that have been raised.

I strongly support adults' right to choose to smoke, and to choose to spend their money on legal products. That is their choice, and it is not under threat from the Bill. Nothing in the Bill will stop adults having the choice to smoke, to purchase tobacco or to receive information about the tobacco products in which they are interested. It will stop the tobacco companies having the right to use their considerable profits to bombard children and adults, smokers and non-smokers, with seductive messages to persuade them to smoke.

The tobacco companies have made billions over the decades by selling an addictive product that kills. They use £100 million of those profits each year to promote those products afresh, not only to current smokers considering which brand to buy, but to current smokers struggling to give up, to former smokers trying to maintain their resolve, and to non-smokers who might be tempted to start.

Given the health risks, I believe that it is right that we should support smokers who want to give up and right that we should work to reduce the number of children who start smoking. The tobacco advertising ban is key to that. For a start, tobacco advertising clearly makes it harder for people to give up. In the past few years, a Silk Cut Ultra advertisement has carried the huge strapline:

As hon. Members may know, on 1 January many people make the new year's resolution to try to give up smoking, but that advertisement explicitly tries to persuade them that shifting brand is a better new year's resolution after all. That explicitly challenges someone's right to choose to give up smoking. Even though 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to stop, smoking is addictive and hard to give up and tobacco advertising makes giving up harder.

Tobacco advertising also makes it more likely that children will start smoking. Many Members, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, described the evidence that tobacco advertising is targeted at and appeals to young people and also affects children. I want to cover a couple of points in particular. The tobacco industry claims that it targets only young adults, not children, and the Tories claim that a voluntary ban is sufficient to protect children. However, between June 1998 and May 1999, the committee monitoring the voluntary advertising agreement found 11 examples of posters carrying tobacco advertising in sight of schools.

22 Jan 2001 : Column 748

The idea that children see tobacco advertisements only in sight of schools is ludicrous. If the tobacco industry accepts that there is a case for removing advertising in sight of schools because it affects children, it should also accept the case for removing hoardings anywhere else where children might see them. The Conservatives accept the case for removing advertising hoardings near schools. Why can they not accept that there is absolutely no logic to stopping advertising outside the local primary school while tolerating it opposite the swimming pool, the toy shop or the bus stop where children get the bus to school? Children do not open their eyes only when they walk through the school gates. They have their eyes open on the way to school, on the way to the shops and in the car as their parents drive them around.

Hon. Members raised a series of specific issues which I am sure we will cover in Committee. In particular, they raised questions about brand sharing. While there is no intention to undermine genuine business diversification, as hon. Members pointed out, the potential for tobacco companies to get round the ban with branded T-shirts, boots and micro-scooters is considerable. That is why the matter is covered in the Bill.

The issues surrounding sponsorship have been rehearsed many times in the House. The Government signed up to the European Union directive and the Prime Minister made it clear in the House that it is not the intention of the tobacco advertising ban to harm sports, but the bottom line is clear: all tobacco sponsorship will be banned by 2006 at the latest--of sports, of theatrical events, of music, of everything else as well. Hon. Members asked about proposals to prevent advertising on the internet. We will need to discuss that in Committee.

All the talk about tobacco smuggling is a complete red herring. Action on smuggling and action on advertising are not alternatives or an either/or. I support action on smuggling, which is why I support the measures taken by the Government, who are investing more than £200 million to counter it. However, that is not a reason not to support a ban on advertising as well. It is absolutely right that we ban tobacco advertising and take action on smuggling as well.

The Opposition set out their priorities: to back the tobacco industry over protecting health and to back the rights of the tobacco industry over the rights of our children and support for a healthy start to their lives. The Bill will not prevent individual choice, but it will prevent the tobacco industry from using its mighty financial muscle to advertise and promote a product that kills. For the sake of the children who will be tomorrow's victims of lung cancer, coronary heart disease and other diseases, I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 127, Noes 316.

Next Section

IndexHome Page