Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would make a distinction between the Conservative Opposition, sometimes called the official Opposition, and the Liberal Democrat Opposition, who have constructively supported the measure. I mean that as a helpful comment.
After the election the self-same Bill was reintroduced in the other place by Lord Clement-Jones, to whom I pay tribute for his skill in taking the Bill through that House. I believe that it benefited from the scrutiny it received on both sides there, but, with the addition of one or two helpful amendments that were made during its passage, the Bill before us today is the same as it was when Parliament was dissolved before the last election. I am pleased that we have been able to find Government time for it to conclude all its remaining stages, and I look forward to its successful passage.
This Bill forms a core part of our strategy to reduce smoking and so improve health. Smoking is the single biggest cause of early death in our country. As Sir George Alberti, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said in the college's report "Nicotine Addiction in Britain",
Our 1998 White Paper "Smoking Kills", published by my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), was the first comprehensive programme of action produced by any Government to prevent and reduce deaths from smoking. That programme has helped us to secure a reduction in smoking prevalence. Among adults, tobacco consumption had been falling consistently until 1994. It rose in 1996, but I am pleased to say that, according to figures obtained from the general household surveys undertaken in both 1998 and 2000, it has now fallen again. Perhaps even more significantly, smoking among manual groups, where tobacco consumption is highest, has also fallen, after rising between 1992 and 1996. Because the fall among manual groups has been faster than that in society as a whole, it is helping to tackle health inequalities in our country.
That progress reflects the approach we have been taking in recent years to tackle the problem of smoking. First, we have taken fiscal and other measures. We have increased tobacco duties, because there is a clear link between price and consumption levels. We have also taken measures to crack down on the real problem of illegal smuggling of cigarettes and other tobacco products into the UK. More than £200 million is being spent by the Government on tackling that illegal trade, which poses such a health hazard to our country. Again, that effort is beginning to pay dividends, with Customs successfully seizing almost 3 billion cigarettes in 200001 alone 1 billion more than in the previous year.
Secondly, we have launched a major public education campaign, including television advertising and an NHS smoking helpline, which so far has taken 400,000 calls. In my view, people have a right to choose to smoke. If that is what they want to do, they have a right to do it, but they also have a right to know the implications of their decision for themselves and, more importantly, for others.
In the first six months of the last financial year, over 50,000 people had quit smoking with help from those services. Smoking among pregnant women is falling. We will be looking to expand those services still further in the years to come.
The next step in that comprehensive programme of action on smoking is to end tobacco sponsorship and advertising. Some have said that the Bill is anti-smoker and anti-choice. In my view, it is a tough but I hope proportionate response to the marketing and promotion of the only legally available product that is guaranteed to kill one in two of its regular, long-term users. It will help reduce tobacco consumption.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): As the Secretary of State knows, I have a long-standing interest in sport. He will also know that many of those who are struggling to ensure the continued development of sport, particularly minority sports, are concerned about the loss of revenue from sponsorship. There is obviously a trade-off between the health risks of tobacco and the benefits for sport from financial support. Will the Government indicate what kind of assessment they have done of the dangers of sport losing revenue, with consequent health risks?
Mr. Milburn: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. As he is aware, throughout discussions about this Bill and about other action, whether it be in Europe, the UK or, I hope, internationally in due course through the World Health Organisation, it has been important to get the balance right between taking forward an important public health measurebanning tobacco advertising and sponsorshipand ensuring that the effects on certain sports are not over-discriminatory. I want to come to that point later.
The Bill will ban overt advertising on billboards, posters and in the press. It will end, with only limited exceptions, advertising in shops. Only advertising at the point of sale will be allowed. Direct marketing, too, will cease, stopping the tobacco industry bombarding people with promotional material, so undermining their attempts to give up. However, the Bill will not prevent members of the general public, journalists, writers and others from talking about tobacco products, representing them on stage or film, or commenting in the press about smoking and tobacco.
Tobacco sponsorship of sports and other events will end under the Bill. Tobacco companies will no longer be able to exploit sports and public events to glamorise their products and to get their logos emblazoned across our TV screens. It is important that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House understand why. According to the Cancer Research Campaign, the impact of such sports
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): Where has the Secretary of State found the voluntary agreement to be defective, and what measures has he taken, through consultation with tobacco manufacturers, to tighten it, if he thinks that desirable?
Mr. Milburn: If the hon. Gentleman is talking about the fault lines in the voluntary agreement on tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, those are plain for all to see. He is well aware of certain eventssome have been on our television screens over recent daysat which tobacco logos are emblazoned for all to see. That clearly has an impact on tobacco consumption levels. If he is talking about the voluntary code on tobacco advertising more generally, again that measure has not been particularly effective.
The clearest fault line is in relation to tobacco advertising in areas where children live, work, play and go to school. As I understand it, the tobacco companies say that they are happy to prohibit enormous billboards advertising their products within 100 m of a school. That is great, but the kids do not live, play, shop or enjoy their leisure opportunities within 100 m of the school. The evidence is crystal clear, I believe, that that has an impact on tobacco consumption among the children and teenagers who are the future generation of smokers. The voluntary code has not been successful and that is why it is important to enact this legislation.