Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mrs. Spelman: That is the problem—the word ``shop''. Does the Minister accept that many of the specialists do not have a shop, so they have to advertise in other ways?

Yvette Cooper: We will discuss advertising on the internet and at point of sale, which is covered by regulations. That will provide the appropriate point for detailed discussion. However, we have made it clear that the intention of the Bill is to prevent the promotion of tobacco products and that means all tobacco products in the general sense. We will then set out the particular exemptions. We accept that products in the premises of specialist tobacconists are not likely to be accessed other than by people who are already interested in the specialist tobacconist's products and in going into those shops in the first place.

Mr. Ian Bruce: On a narrow point—what the Minister is defining as an advertisement—the Yellow Pages simply lists the tobacconists, showing where they are and what their telephone numbers are. There is no other information about smoking. I would say that that is an advertisement promoting tobacco. Clearly, if that is defined as being illegal and is taken out of the Yellow Pages, supermarkets and everyone else who sells tobacco will be caught by the same definition. Will the Minister return to what is defined as an advertisement?

Yvette Cooper: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will return to that matter when I discuss amendment No. 6 and after I have finished with amendment No. 1.

There is no justification for any general exemption from the advertising bans for particular products, and such an amendment would weaken the Bill. We should be cautious in our assumption that specialist tobacco products are not fashionable with children. I remember teenagers smoking cigars because they thought it was particularly fashionable and gave them a novel image. In 1998, 4 per cent. of men between 16 and 19 reported smoking cigars. Therefore, just because particular products are not fashionable, does not mean they will not become so. There is a broad principal here, that general advertising of tobacco products, whatever they might be, should not be permitted under this Bill.

I am sympathetic to the intention behind amendment No. 6, but the Government are of the view that it is unnecessary. Specialist tobacconists should be able to advertise themselves as such in the Yellow Pages, or anywhere else. The Bill does not permit them to use space in Yellow Pages to advertise cigarettes, rolling tobacco, or tobacco products. The entry in Yellow Pages promotes a business, not a product, and the Bill is not aimed at such announcements or listings of specialist tobacconists, or their address and of what they are.

Mr. Bruce: I am grateful to the Minister for a clear and useful definition, but I am concerned about the legal aspects and the many organisations that are campaigning for a ban on advertising., which is about to become a separate public company, could be sued for carrying such advertisements. After all, specialist tobacconists sell tobacco and the purpose of the listing in Yellow Pages is to promote the sale of tobacco. To my mind, therefore, that is an advertisement, and it would be to any lawyer or judge. Can the Minister show how the company is protected within the Bill?

Yvette Cooper: Clause 1 is clear on that matter. A tobacco advertisement is an advertisement to promote a tobacco product. Advertisements that promote tobacco products, such as a large advertisement in Yellow Pages to promote Marlboro cigarettes or whatever, would clearly be interpreted as such by the courts.

Certainly, the Government do not intend to prevent specialist tobacconists from placing entries in Yellow Pages. We do not intend to prohibit that type of publicity. The mischief at which the Bill is clearly aimed is an advertisement that promotes a tobacco product and encourages people to smoke. The Government have sympathy with the aim of the amendment, but do not believe that it is necessary.

Therefore, I invite the Committee to reject the amendment.

Mrs. Spelman: Does the Minister accept that the problem is therefore clause 1(b)? I could understand her reasoning, if 1(b) did not exist, but it is far reaching and states:

    ```tobacco advertisement' means an advertisement . . .

    (b) whose effect is to do so, and''—

meaning, to promote a tobacco product. Surely, to return to the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset, a lawyer would say that, by putting the name and address of a tobacco specialist in Yellow Pages, one is promoting a tobacco product. That is where my concern lies. Surely, we do not expect a specialist tobacconist to go to court to prove who is right. There needs to be clarification.

Yvette Cooper: I do not think that that would be the effect of clause 1(b). I have tried to make the intention of the Government crystal clear by spelling this out. It is clear in the Bill. The Government do not intend to prohibit specialist tobacconists from publicising their businesses in Yellow Pages. However, we intend to prohibit the advertising of tobacco products.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The listing that I have here is in bold and is, therefore, a ``paid for'' entry. It reads:

    ``Benson and Hedges Ltd. . . . 13 Old Bond Street, W1X.''

I understand that that is the name of a specialist shop, but it is also the name of a brand of cigarette. Is it illegal, under the Bill, for that shop to be listed in that way?

Yvette Cooper: I have tried to make this as clear as I can. It is not the intention of the Bill to prohibit businesses from listing themselves, or specialist tobacconists in particular from listing or promoting themselves as such. Clearly, the Bill will prevent the promotion of particular tobacco products. The reason being that we want to prevent the promotion of tobacco products, which ultimately promotes smoking, and children are our particular concern. I hope that I have spelt that out as clearly as possible, both for the sake of specialist tobacconists, so that they understand our intention, but also for those who will have to interpret the Bill in the courts.

Mrs. Spelman: We have had a useful discussion. The amendments were designed to probe the Government on advertising and the position of the specialists. The last few points that the Minister made will be helpful. The meaning of the Bill is not immediately apparent from the way in which it is drafted. I hope, therefore, that the record of this Committee will serve as the basis of the guidance that goes with the legislation, to ensure that everyone is clear about the meaning of the Bill.

I hope that the Minister will understand from this discussion that we want to get the balance right. We do not want smoking to increase—that is a shared aim on both sides of the Committee. We are trying to strike a balance between that risk and those who legitimately want to carry out their trade. I still remain a little unsatisfied about specialists who do not have a shop, but we will be able to debate that further on clause 6.

These were probing amendments and the clarification that they have drawn from the Government will be helpful. I hope that we will have time for a stand part debate on the wider meaning of advertising, because my hon. Friend and I still have questions that we want to raise. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

11.30 am

Mrs. Spelman: We return to the meaning of a ``tobacco advertisement''. It is important to hear from the Minister some clarification on this matter for the industries that will be directly affected and even for those that will only be indirectly affected. As we scrutinise the Bill, we will find that it will capture, for example, the internet service providers. Many parties will, therefore, be listening with great interest to find out what the Government regard as a tobacco advertisement.

I asked about tobacco packaging. If that is the only way that tobacco companies can promote their products, the packets may change considerably. As the Minister said, we have to try and have vision and imagine what may be the fashion. I am trying hard to envisage the new world in which advertising has been banned. I want to know whether the packaging of tobacco products would be affected. What about the letterheads of companies that sell tobacco products? Might their stationery be caught by the definition of a tobacco advertisement? That is important because some of the larger companies spend great sums on their business stationery. What about delivery vans that belong to companies that produce tobacco products? Will they be affected if they carry logos, inscriptions, marks or signs advertising the business whose products are contained within the vehicle? Would that constitute a tobacco advertisement? That is an important matter for any third party that was involved. Often, manufacturing companies contract out their delivery services, but still have their logos on the delivery vehicles.

We need a little more clarification about electronic advertisements. We are going to debate internet service providers at length on clause 2. It is an interesting area—one that, as a health spokesman, I do not feel overly qualified to debate. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset has more knowledge of information technology and I will draw on his experience.

What constitutes an advertisement by electronic means? That is an important question. The explanatory notes state:

    The term ``advertisement'' is not defined and bears its natural meaning.

That is vague. I am not sure what the natural meaning is and, unfortunately, it may be about to change in the new information technology revolution in which we are participating. It would welcome more clarification. It would make the task of enforcement easier if the Government clarified and defined what is and what is not an advertisement under the Bill.

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