|Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]
Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): I am delighted to catch your eye, Mr. Amess. I shall comment briefly on the Opposition amendments.
I mentioned this issue on Second Reading, when I strongly welcomed the fact that coupons and the free distribution referred to in the Bill will be prohibited. I declared an interest then, and I declare another now. Unbeknown to me at the time of Second Reading, for a good period of her life my mother helped stock cigarettes into cartons and boxes in the cigarette processing plant in Glasgow. I have declared my interest and made more confessions. On Second Reading, I admitted to having smoked and to a dubious taste in music. My family connection with the industry only strengthens my support for the action that the Government are taking in the clause.
We have discussed purpose and effect. The tobacco industry and Opposition Members who represent its interests will claim that the purpose of coupons and free distribution is to encourage brand loyalty and to thank customers for purchasing their products. That may be the stated purpose, but the effect is entirely different. We are all aware—Conservative Members should acknowledge this—that the effect is to encourage and maintain the smoker's addiction. The industry also aims to entice additional purchases. Surely, everyone would accept that. On Second Reading, I talked about the effect of such coupons,
Column Number: 170which is to encourage smokers—such as those in my own family—to purchase a cheap set of six whisky glasses for £100 worth of cigarettes. I have since been given a copy of the Benson and Hedges gratis magazine, which describes in greater detail the effect and purpose of coupons. A cursory glance shows that the effect of coupons is not only to encourage maintenance of the addiction and additional purchases of cigarettes; the magazine shows the extent to which tobacco companies use coupons to reward the smoker's addiction through the distribution of supposedly free gifts. Such gifts include a child's swing, of all things: smoke cigarettes and get a free swing for your child. The fact is that one would have to purchase £6,000 worth of cigarettes to receive a supposedly ''free'' child's swing. The aim is to encourage the smoker to purchase additional cigarettes. In return for a £6,000 investment in his addiction, a smoker could feel a warm glow—as well as blocked lungs—by providing his child with a nice, little play swing. That is an additional effect of coupons. If a smoker spends over £200 on cigarettes, he can be rewarded with a ''my little honey doll''. What is the purpose of such a gift?
Mr. Wilshire: My mind was beginning to wander again and I might have said something unfortunate. Will the hon. Gentleman say what the thing is?
Mr. Murphy: Members of the Committee may not be aware that the hon. Member for Spelthorne and I spent more than a week cooped up in a cabin on a Royal Navy frigate. We discussed such issues, among other things. It is fairly clear that it is a little doll, given in return for spending hundreds of pounds on tobacco products, polluting the household, encouraging passive smoking and passive contraction of diseases. By way of compensation, one can reward a child with a little squeezy doll.
I am identifying the purpose and effect of coupon programmes. A travel cot can be purchased with coupons, although one would have to spend over £2,000 on cigarettes to receive one.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): I am interested in what my hon. Friend has said and I totally support his argument. Does he agree that one of the effects is not only to maintain the addiction, but that the smoker would buy as many cigarettes as possible, so that he may receive the child's swing or little honey doll even sooner, perhaps this year rather than next?
Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend is correct. Smokers may do their shopping by tobacco coupons in time for Christmas gifts. He is right to draw attention to the fact that there are deadlines on some of the offers. To qualify for the supposed special offer, one must purchase a certain quantity of cigarettes by a certain deadline. The purpose and effect of such an offer would be an increased consumption of tobacco products within a certain time.
Tim Loughton: The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting contribution, but I am sure that he does not seriously think that people who are stupid enough to smoke are also stupid enough not to realise that they could buy lots of swings or honey dolls outright with the money that they would have to spend on cigarettes.
Column Number: 171Also, is it not a fact that smoking diminishes a smoker's sperm count and affects fertility? That means that smokers are rather less likely to exchange vouchers for a carrycot or whatever, because they could not have children in the first place.
Mr. Murphy: I am not in a position to question the hon. Gentleman's understanding of science or human biology, but I am sensible enough to know that if someone is trying to purchase a swing for a child, they already have a child, and sperm count is not uppermost in their mind.
Another example of the enormous pressure and incentives used to increase consumption of tobacco comes from the same wonderful colour brochure. If one spends more than £2,500 smoking more than 10,000 cigarettes, one qualifies for a cardiovascular workout mini-step. How remarkable.
Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds): The hon. Gentleman has shared a delicious piece of irony with us. I would like more information. I have never seen such coupons. I do not know how a smoker might get hold of them, where they might be found and how widely distributed they are. Could the hon. Gentleman tell us the scale of the problem that he is describing?
Mr. Murphy: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that such coupons are a problem, and I anticipate him voting with us if the issue is forced to a Division.
Coupons are regularly found inside packets of cigarettes. I shall show the hon. Gentleman the range of brands that contain them in their boxes. Cigarette package frontages show the brands to which one would have to be loyal in order to receive the gifts. They are a widely used incentive, the effect of which is to encourage greater levels of smoking. The coupons are available to many families throughout the country, including mine. They are a widely used marketing tool that encourages a degree of brand loyalty and—more importantly for the purposes of the Committee—increased smoking and addiction.
Mr. Ruffley: I am a nearly reformed smoker who smoked both Silk Cut and Marlboro Lights cigarettes, and I cannot recall coming across any of the coupons that the hon. Gentleman describes. I am not making a judgment about the merits of such coupons; I am fascinated by what he says. However, given my experiences, it is not clear to me that coupons are widespread. That is why I intervened earlier. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could elucidate how many smokers might be affected by the regime.
Mr. Murphy: I have a letter from Benson and Hedges about its coupon regime. As a non-smoker, I am well aware that Benson and Hedges is a considerable market player. My father did not, and does not, smoke Benson and Hedges, but there are coupons in the cigarettes that he purchases, too. I gather that they are widespread, and their effect is to encourage and increase consumption of tobacco products. I identified that example of incentives to highlight a callous way of encouraging greater consumption.
Column Number: 172I should like to mention free distribution. I am a teetotal non-smoking vegetarian, but I nevertheless occasionally visit Glasgow pubs with my wife and friends. Like many people, I am often confronted by usually younger ladies, who offer to swap the contents of a cigarette packet for a full packet of an alternative brand. The effect of that free distribution is not only to switch brand loyalty, but to increase the consumption of cigarettes and, therefore, the level of addiction to specific tobacco products. I do not know what happens to the cigarettes one hands in—the one or two in the packet that one takes to the pub. However, instead of purchasing a packet of 20, one swaps the cigarettes that one has left for a brand new packet of 20 and ends up smoking 38 or 39 cigarettes. The aim is not to promote brand switching but to increase consumption.
In my experience, there are only two conditions for free distribution. One is the compulsory adding of one's name to a database to receive subsequent mailings and advertising, and the other is increasing one's consumption by swapping a small number of cigarettes for a full packet.
Therefore, I welcome the clause as drafted not only for its purpose, but in respect of its effect. Opposition Members who claim to fear an excessive use of retrospective legal judgment should see that there is a clear legal defence within clause 9(5). I am surprised that the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) did not allude to it in full. I welcome the clause and oppose the amendments because of the purpose of the tobacco industry and the effect of free distribution and widely distributed coupons.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): There are a series of amendments to clause 9, most of which relate to free distribution, although one refers to brand sharing. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) did not speak to amendment No. 42 and I understand that he intends to withdraw it, so unless he indicates otherwise, I shall not speak against it.
The effect of amendment No. 39 would be that any of the offences in clause 9 involving free distributions would be permitted only if the purpose of the gift is to promote a tobacco product, and not when the effect is to do so. I oppose the amendment because the line that we have taken consistently throughout the Bill is that it must cover cases involving purpose and effect. We should not confine the Bill to purpose. We should take a consistent approach in clause 9 and cover advertisements and promotions that are either intended to promote a tobacco product or have the effect of doing so.
The Bill provides clear defences to protect people when their connection with the promotion could be said to be blameless. Clause 9(5) provides that
Column Number: 173If they could not reasonably have foreseen it, they have a defence under the Bill. In such circumstances, because of the burden of proof, the prosecution would first have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the effect of the distribution was to promote a tobacco product. Secondly, if defendants put forward credible evidence claiming that they could not reasonably have foreseen the effect, the prosecution would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they could have. The defence is already in the Bill.
Amendment No. 43 seeks to provide that
the product or coupon reaches the particular people permitted under clause 9(4). I have sympathy with the intention behind the amendment, but I believe that it is not appropriate and ask the Committee to reject it. Free gifts can be a powerful tool in tobacco companies' armouries, and gift schemes can be used to tempt lower-income smokers. The advertising agency used by Gallaher provided a document to the Health Committee in 1999 that stated:
Clearly, an attempt is made to use free gifts, promotions and coupons to encourage smoking and promote tobacco products.
The Bill allows free gifts in some circumstances for the purposes of the tobacco trade. Paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (3) list the circumstances and include the provision that each person who receives the gift must be engaged in the trade.
The amendment would weaken subsection (3) such that people would not be liable if they had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the gifts were received only by the person in the trade. I have some sympathy with that intention, but the company responsible should take some responsibility for ensuring that the free gifts sent out reach the right people.
We are allowing an exemption from the comprehensive ban in particular circumstances. It should not become an excuse for simply having a huge mailing list that is updated once every 12 months, simply to check, and using it to promote a product to a large number of people without being clear that those people are part of the tobacco trade and involved in the right sort of decisions and decision-making positions in the tobacco trade. It is right that the provision is clearly drawn to ensure that it does not become subject to abuse. Sufficient exemption has been given to carry on the trade with no detrimental effects.
Amendment No. 40 would delete subsection (3)(d), which provides that the product or coupon must be given to each such person in their capacity as a person involved in the trade, as set out in the rest of the clause. The provision distinguishes between giving to people as part of their job a free distribution such as a new cigar that they want to be sold in specialist tobacconists, for example, and allowing people simply to give everyone on the list free products for their own use and effectively targeting them as smokers or
Column Number: 174potential smokers, as opposed to contacting them in their capacity as part of the tobacco trade.
Amendment No. 50 relates to the principle of removing effect from the Bill in relation to brand sharing. Brand sharing is especially important, and we shall have an opportunity to discuss it later.
Documents in the public domain reveal how the tobacco industry reacted many years ago to the threat of increasing restrictions on direct advertising by developing a strategy to use its brands on other products, such as Marlboro Classic clothing. The tobacco brand receives extra advertising that is free of the advertising restrictions placed on tobacco brands, such as the presence of a health warning. Recent research concluded that:
It is important to keep effect in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) made clear the impact that tobacco promotion through coupons and free distribution can have and the rather dubious links between the promotion and the sorts of gifts on offer. If we removed effect from the Bill and left only purpose, the tobacco company could argue that the purpose was to make money from other goods, or related to brand loyalty, for example, and it might be difficult for the prosecution to prove an additional purpose beyond reasonable doubt, but the effect might be screamingly obvious to everyone. It might be to promote a tobacco product. We must not permit through brand sharing promotions that clearly have the effect of promoting a tobacco product, because it could be argued that there may be alternative purposes. To remove the word ''effect'' from the clause would weaken it. Defences are in place; it is right that they are, but it would be wrong to accept the amendments. The Government reject amendments Nos. 42, 39, 43, 40 and 50.
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