Previous SectionIndexHome Page

21 Oct 2002 : Column 89—continued

Mr. Pound: In the interests of balance, it may be appropriate to hear the gasping tones of at least one smoker. Oscar Wilde said:

However, he also said:

That is the key factor.

I support the Bill, although I have grave doubts and reservations about it, as part of a wider initiative that is right. There is no question about that. However, can we be honest for a moment about cigarette advertising? Twenty or 30 years ago, it was aggressive and influenced people to smoke. People felt that there was something distinctly wrong with them if they did not smoke. I remember the advertisement for Rothman's, which featured an airline pilot gracefully landing his jet at Heathrow, leaning back in the cockpit and lighting a revivifying Rothman. Often, my nine-year-old and 10-year-old schoolmates and I leaned back in our soapbox carts and said, XNow it's time for a Rothman."

XYou're never alone with a Strand." I remember the enigmatic figure in a raincoat in the days when men wandering the streets the London at night in raincoats were comparatively innocent. That man satisfied himself on the bridge at midnight with a Strand. [Laughter.] It was immensely seductive. [Laughter.] I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker; the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) has unmanned me.

In those days, an innocent child with no thoughts of nicotine could wander the streets of Fulham and be ensnared by aggressive advertising, and many of us were. In my case, I distinctly remember going to see the doctor on a matter that I do not choose to share with the House. The doctor invited me in and said, XSit down, old chap, you look frayed. Have a cigarette." He whipped out his case—Turkish cigarettes on one side and Virginia on the other—and we sat and smoked. But that was then; this is now.

I cannot, in all conscience, believe that anyone who has never thought of smoking wanders down the street and, seeing a sign advertising Lambert and Butler, says, XWell, stone me, I think I'll start smoking!" It simply does not work like that. It might persuade people to smoke brand X rather than brand Y, but it is not the reason that people start smoking. I have teenage children at secondary school, and I know damned well why many of their classmates will smoke. It is because smoking is perceived as cool. To revert to the comment by Oscar Wilde, as long as smoking is wicked, it will be popular, and as long as we say, XThis is evil and must be stopped", there will be children saying XYes! I'll have some of that!" A few years ago, it was—allegedly—possible to import via the internet cigarettes that had a skull and crossbones on the packet and were called Death cigarettes. They sold by the bucket load—not that I wish to declare an interest in this in any way whatever. This is not the way to do it.

I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins), the Minister and others talking about another real problem: the issue that

21 Oct 2002 : Column 90

we blithely call product placement. As long as some sensual siren who reaches peaks of sexuality that people like me can only dream about leans back in her silken sheets after a hard night and lights a cigarette—and if the closest that I can ever get to Gwyneth Paltrow is to have a cigarette after thinking about her—it is inevitable that many other people will also do that. That is the problem. We have heard about villains on television, such as those on EastEnders, who smoke cigarettes and are perceived as hard, ruthless people who just do not care. That, sadly, is attractive to teenagers, and we have to address this issue.

I am going to support the Government because, well, frankly, I always do. I will support them, but not entirely with a full heart or even, possibly, working lungs. The reason is that this ban on tobacco advertising will not ban tobacco. Not for the first time, I am disappointed in Her Majesty's Opposition. Had they but had the courage to say, XThis is a foul, evil business. We'll ban the lot! Let's go for prohibition!", I would have admired their intellectual honesty. They could quite easily have gone for that. Instead, they have been dancing around tabling these different amendments and I have to say that, in some cases, they have been rather foolish. The Government have accepted a pragmatic response and offered a pragmatic solution involving a range of options. I agree with that, and I will support them, but I implore the Minister and other hon. Members to realise that every time we send out the message that cigarette smoking is vile and wicked, some teenager somewhere—for the same reason that they buy those appalling Eminem records—will choose to smoke.

I do not wish to detain the House further, as many people wish to go to the smoking room after this debate. I will, of course, support the Government, but nobody should kid themselves that taking the names of tobacco companies off racing cars or ocean-going yachts is going to end cigarette smoking. That is not going to do it. It may cause great pain in the world of sports sponsorship—indeed, it probably will. My predecessor as Member of Parliament for Ealing, North is still sponsored for a pensioners' tea party every year by Gallagher. Fair play to him: it is legal and he continues to do it. I choose not to do so. But the Bill is part of a wider package involving cessation and health warnings, and I wish the Government a fair wind. I only wish that I could muster one myself, but my lungs are not quite up to it.

7.54 pm

Ms Blears: I am delighted to have the vulgar loyalism of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound). If that is the most support that he can give us, I am grateful for it.

I want to deal with some of the issues raised by hon. Members as briefly as I can, because we have been over this ground many times before. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) said that he was still not convinced that there was a link between advertising and smoking. I wonder how much more he wants to see. He described his new clause as a paving clause for a sunset clause. One cannot get much more indirect than that. We saw his true colours there. That new clause was a last-gasp attempt to allow the industry to continue to ply its trade of advertising and promoting tobacco. We need to be honest about that.

21 Oct 2002 : Column 91

The hon. Gentleman also talked about smuggling. He is well aware that the Government have put an extra #200 million into tackling smuggling, along with X-ray machines at all our ports and thousands of extra customs officers, and that 3 billion cigarettes have been seized this year. There is a lot more to be done to tackle smuggling, but he is well aware of the Government's determination to crack down on the problem. He also said that there was not enough time fully to scrutinise the Bill in Committee. The way in which he has failed to move his amendments this evening gives the lie to that. He had every opportunity to spend another couple of hours scrutinising the Bill and moving his detailed amendments, but he chose not to do so.

The hon. Gentleman and others mentioned product placement and the impact of the activities of celebrities such as soap stars on young people taking up smoking. That important point was raised by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North. We intend to do whatever we can to get some champions for our anti-smoking campaigns, to ensure that we get the message across as powerfully as we possibly can, particularly to young people. If any hon. Member can suggest anyone who might be prepared to help that cause, we would be grateful for that information.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) made an important point about price cutting, and asked whether the Chancellor might look at that in the Budget. I assure him that the Chancellor takes into account the effects of price in his Budget process, and he will certainly continue to examine that area. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Salter) raised an important point about the National Federation of Anglers, which is proposing to hold an event in 2004. The consultation on sponsorship is out, and people have until 15 November to respond to it. I shall ensure that the National Federation of Anglers is properly consulted in that process.

I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) for the Bill. She also raised smoking cessation services. Several hon. Members have seen the Bill as part of a package, and they are right. Zyban is now available on prescription, and 40 per cent. of the prescriptions issued for it are free. The evidence is, therefore, that we are reaching the poorest communities, which are targeted by tobacco companies to promote their products. My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell) raised an important issue about his constituency and the impact on employment of measures to reduce smoking. He made a good point about the need for proper transitional provisions for retraining, reskilling, diversification and ensuring that people can get into other forms of employment.

The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook), who is no longer in his place—I understand that he had another

21 Oct 2002 : Column 92

engagement—asked about negative advertising, which I dealt with earlier. If the effect of negative advertising is to promote a tobacco product, it will be caught by the prohibition. The crucial question will be: what is the effect of the advertising? My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) made a passionate and committed contribution to the debate. I had the pleasure of reading the speech that she made on Second Reading, and it was one of the most persuasive speeches that I have read. It was based on the real experiences of people in her constituency, particularly those of young people. She rightly raised the issue of the cost to the national health service of picking up the pieces as a result of tobacco promotion in this country over many years.

We have seen the true colours of the Opposition this evening. They will the ends but not the means, and they are afraid to make the hard choices that are the test of any Government. I also believe that they are out of step with public opinion in this country. Sixty per cent. of the people support an advertising ban, and 70 per cent. of smokers want to give up. The Opposition are also out of step with the rest of the world.

A worldwide convention on tobacco control is taking place in Geneva today. Doctors from every part of the world have joined to present a manifesto intended to ensure an end to misleading claims that some cigarettes are safer than others, and an end to all tobacco advertising. They want clear, informative health warnings on every packet of cigarettes. They want non-smokers to be protected from tobacco smoke, and they want tobacco taxes to be increased. World opinion says that we should end tobacco advertising.

I genuinely think that the Opposition are clinging to the myth that a ban on advertising, sponsorship, brand-sharing, coupons and free gifts is not justified by the evidence. We have proved here today that stopping advertising and promotion will help to save lives.

If the Tories are genuine in their desire to change, to reflect the views of people in this country today and to speak up for the most vulnerable in society, they will have to think carefully about how they vote. They must think about the children drawn into addiction at the age of nine or 10. They must think about the teenagers who are bombarded with images of glamour and macho dynamic sports. They must think about people living on low incomes in poor communities such as mine, who proportionately spend far more on cigarettes than better-off people do. They must think about pregnant mothers whose smoking damages not just themselves but their babies. All those people are vulnerable—vulnerable to the predatory actions of the tobacco companies that have to promote their products knowing that they maim and kill, just to maintain their profits. They made #3 billion in pre-tax profits last year.

Tonight's vote will be very revealing. It will show whose side the Opposition are on. If they are really on the side of the vulnerable in this country they will not merely abstain, but support the Bill and ask every other Member to take that positive action.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.

21 Oct 2002 : Column 93

Next Section

IndexHome Page