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7.18 pm

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): This is the second time that we have debated such a Bill and I want to address my remarks to the positive effects it will have if it becomes law, especially on tackling the take-up of smoking among young people and on breaking the habit among pregnant women.

The Bill's provisions are crucial for the health and well-being of future generations. If the Bill is enacted, future young adults will become smokers only through informed choice, not through the malign effect of advertising and the disingenuous linking of tobacco products with sporting prowess. Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 supremacy will not be challenged by the forced removal of the corporate tobacco logos that festoon him and his car. If an altruistic tobacco company—if such an oxymoronic concept exists—is sufficiently committed to a particular sport or event, the Bill allows donations from the corporate source as long as there is no reciprocity in the relationship that leads to the promotion of tobacco products.

The tobacco-stained Conservative party has decided, astonishingly, that there is no evidence that a ban would discourage young people, or anyone else for that matter, from taking up smoking. Conservatives seem to be saying, "It can't be banned outright, so it's not worth doing anything about it." Indeed, they have tabled an amendment to that effect. Naturally, that begs the question: why spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year on advertising and promotion if it has no influence at all on the take-up of such an addictive product?

The answer is that there is, of course, a causal link between advertising and smoking prevalence, which has been demonstrated, as previous speakers have made clear, by the drop in the number of smokers following advertising bans in other countries. Finland banned the advertising of tobacco products in 1978, and saw a 34 per cent. drop in consumption. The Norwegians reduced the tobacco-smoking proportion of their population from 40 per cent. in 1975, when a ban was introduced, to 33 per cent. by 1999.

There are several other continental examples, but I suspect that the Conservatives, with their social and cultural antipathy towards Europe, will accept only home-grown examples as valid illustrations of the link between advertising and cigarette consumption. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate) said a moment ago, 83 per cent. of the more than 12 million smokers in the UK would not, given their time again, take up smoking because of the knowledge that we now have. According to Action on Smoking and Health, the vast majority of smokers took up smoking in their teenage years. What made them start?

Of course, it is rarely one thing that causes people to take up such a dangerous habit, but it is clear that tobacco advertising and promotion is a factor in obscuring the health risks inherent in tobacco consumption. Young people, quite naturally, are less concerned about mortality and more concerned with image and a projection of adult status as early as possible. Smoking is perceived as one way of achieving that, hence the fact that the vast majority of UK smokers start in their teens. This is an archetypal smoke and mirrors approach by a tobacco industry that obscures the medical facts by stressing the street image, and no matter what is said it is specifically aimed at young people.

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Although the current voluntary restrictions on advertising in magazines aimed at the early and late teen market are welcome, it is obvious that those are not the only magazines read by people in that age group. Just as smoking is perceived as an adult recreation, so are the magazines that no doubt litter the table of the Conservative Whips Office, such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, GQ, Loaded, Viz and FHM, and there is nothing to stop young people flicking through those magazines. The tobacco industry is fully aware of the subversive and anti-authority appeal of smoking, and it exploits that in its advertising. Those who venture to working class suburbs south of the river in London will see billboard adverts by Lambert and Butler that intentionally use puerile humour to promote a product that kills 120,000 people annually.

What I have said should not be taken to suggest that young people are not sophisticated and intelligent—far from it—but society often tells them that they are not, so many young people cannot resist buying into something that is designated as adult, and which cannot be resisted on grounds of obscenity or anything else. Of course, the habit, once established by physical or psychological addiction, will cause damage as long as the person is a committed smoker, which may be many years.

According to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, tobacco companies advertise for only three reasons: to reinforce brand values and sales to existing smokers to support their continued choice; to invite smokers of competitive brands to switch; and to introduce existing smokers to new brands and new developments in the market. Frankly, however, that is not even half the story. British American Tobacco, Imperial and Gallaher make the vast majority of the 300-plus brands available in the United Kingdom, and their annual aggregate marketing spend has been estimated at more than £120 million, which seems excessive merely to accommodate consumer choice and awareness of the different brands made by the same manufacturer.

There are plenty of examples of the complacent and medically mendacious culture and history of tobacco products that existed before the ban on TV advertising was introduced in 1965, and these should act as a spur to create a political consensus, which I believe is present in the House, although we are reluctant to acknowledge it, to consign to the bin of history the helping hand that advertising gives tobacco.

The American researchers Saffer and Chaloupka, who contributed to the 1999 World Bank report on tobacco consumption, "Curbing the Epidemic", stated after studying data from 22 countries that

We need to address that, but it remains to be seen whether we will do so in this Bill or in future legislation. It has implications for the development of the technologies provision of the Bill, and e-commerce in particular.

I say in all honesty to the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), whose work as the first public health Minister in any western European Government all

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Labour Members admire, that there is a loophole in the Bill that tobacco companies will be quick to exploit once a ban covering all media apart from the internet comes into effect, as I am sure it will. That, I predict, will lead straight to the e-mail accounts of young people in the form of unsolicited junk, or spam, mail because the Bill does not make sufficient demands on internet service providers to monitor content. That is an area to which we will have to return in the near future. We may need separate legislation governing internet content of a prohibited nature; otherwise members of another generation will be beguiled by the same images that created the appalling statistic of 120,000 premature deaths each year.

The current system of self-regulation simply hands the power to the tobacco giants to make token changes and present them as major concessions. The fact that they do not advertise on billboards within 200 yd of a school but simultaneously dismiss the link between advertising and taking up smoking is proof enough that self-policing does not work. Voluntary agreements have been good for the industry but bad for the public. The dubious awareness campaigns indulged in by tobacco companies are cynical exercises in lip service and false concern. In the words of one legal drug baron, the expenditure on schemes to prevent young people from smoking

What of the success of the cessation campaign launched on MTV last April by BAT, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco? The campaign ran until June, and as yet there has been no move by any of the companies involved to assess and publish its effects on the take-up of smoking by young people, so let me briefly turn to that. In the UK, according to figures released by BAT, the MTV campaign ads were seen at least once by 33 per cent. of 16 to 34-year-olds living in houses that receive MTV and four or more times by 17.7 per cent. That means that two thirds of the target audience did not see the ads at all. Those figures do not account for the fact that only 40 per cent. of UK households receive MTV, so only 13 per cent. of young people in the UK, fewer than one in seven, encountered the campaign once during its life.

Tobacco advertising is particularly prevalent in low-income and high-unemployment areas. Figures from ASH show that, in 2000, 34 per cent. of men and 29 per cent. of women in manual occupations smoked, compared with 23 per cent. of men and 22 per cent. of women in non-manual occupations. There has been a slower decline in smoking among manual groups, so it has become increasingly concentrated in those groups.

The use of marketing strategies promoting relatively low-cost cigarettes that ease the anxiety, embarrassment or perception of inferior quality associated with smoking cheaper cigarettes creates a false solidarity with low-income consumers, whom the tobacco industry increasingly sees as its core customers. The names of the lower price cigarettes—Mayfair, Sovereign, Royals and Richmond—ooze exclusivity and affluence. The concentration and variety of tobacco adverts in working-class areas is further evidence of demographic targeting, and proof that a higher rate of tobacco consumption is a major factor in the statistically poorer health experience of people in those communities.

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