Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what the Government think of smoking as portrayed on television and, in particular, smoking in televised plays? This must be the most dangerous practice for young people to see on the screen, or in a televised play, where sometimes people smoke continually. I believe that that sort of thing does as much damage to the young as anything else. Has the Minister any idea as to how the Government could control the situation?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is correct to pin-point the number of different factors that can influence the climate which

10 Dec 1998 : Column 1062

encourages young people to take up smoking. Indeed, it is multifarious. We need to attack the climate in which smoking is considered the norm--certainly the climate in which it is considered in some way attractive, romantic or indeed the "grown up" thing to do. There are responsibilities in the matter for all parts of society. For example, there are some areas in which sports men and women have been particularly helpful in joining in campaigns to provide young people with role models, which are anti-smoking rather than pro-smoking. I believe that other parts of the entertainment industry should rightfully look to their own policies in this area.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, I fully support the Minister in her efforts to reduce smoking. However, when one compares the 120,000 deaths a year caused by smoking with the billions of pounds, millions of cattle and the destruction of the farming industry for the sake of 10 deaths per year, one wonders whether the £50 million designated will be enough.

I have four questions for the Minister. First, can she tell us what sort of loss she anticipates the Exchequer will suffer if cigarette smoking is reduced? After all, that is a very important part of the tax take. Against that, can she tell us what sort of savings she expects might be made in the National Health Service by fewer people becoming ill through smoking? Secondly, as the Minister knows, the European Commission actually subsidises a number of countries to grow tobacco. Can she say what pressure the Government will put on the Commission to stop subsidising people growing tobacco in Europe?

Thirdly, we have heard about peer pressure. Does the Minister agree that it is important that school teachers should not smoke and that young children should be put in the position where there is reverse peer pressure so that, from an early age, they learn that the pressure is on them not to smoke rather than to smoke? In that way they can follow by example.

Fourthly, I should just like to confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said. On Tuesday night I went into the Dining Room, which was full of cigarette smoke. I then went down to the Home Room, which was full of cigar smoke, and eventually ended up in the Barry Room. I understood that smoking was not allowed in our dining rooms; indeed, I believe that that is the rule. I feel that we ought to set an example rather than go the wrong way about it.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am sure that the House authorities will look carefully at the comments made today about the difficulties caused for non-smokers by the present arrangements.

I accept very much the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that some of the most successful educational programmes for young people are undertaken by young people. I suspect that lecturing by government Ministers is not the most potent weapon affecting the behaviour of teenage girls. We need to be very careful and ensure that our advertising campaigns are targeted so that they communicate effectively with young people.

10 Dec 1998 : Column 1063

Some quite novel and radical approaches have been tried in America which focused very much on conventional ways of showing the vested interests of those who persuade people to take up smoking. It has been very effective in reducing smoking among young people.

As to the common agricultural policy, we do not consider that financial support for tobacco production is an effective way of spending Community money. The Government strongly disapprove of the tobacco regime and would like to see its end for reasons of health, costs and control. We would like to see a progressive disengagement from the sector and we will press for an end to tobacco subsidies in the long term. We are actively promoting that policy within the EU.

As to the financial loss to the Exchequer, I should make it absolutely clear that the policies that we are putting forward today are the policies of the Government as a whole--including my right honourable friend, other health Ministers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Yes, if we are successful there will be a loss of tobacco revenue--and the sooner the better.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I welcome the decision not to use the criminal law to force pubs and restaurants to provide non-smoking areas, especially as market forces will achieve the same result without compulsion. Non-smoking adults in Britain now out-number those who smoke by more than two to one. It is in their own interests for catering establishments to provide non-smoking areas. If they fail to do so, they will be increasingly boycotted by non-smokers.

I have three questions for the noble Baroness. In the light of her response to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, I think she probably agrees that young people throughout history have enjoyed doing whatever is forbidden by the elder generation. As suggested in the Sunday Telegraph a few days ago, the right deterrent is not to tell young people that tobacco is dangerous--because danger has a certain glamorous aspect in the eyes of young people--but to try to convince them that the smell of tobacco makes them repellent to members of the opposite sex.

Does the noble Baroness agree that constant price rises, in real terms, encourage smuggling and are unfair on the elderly poor, who derive comfort from cigarettes? It does not affect most of us, but it affects them particularly badly.

Finally, as everybody has to die sometime, what is the precise definition of "premature death"? Is it one year, two years, three years, or whatever, before someone might otherwise be expected to die?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I will certainly write to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, with the precise definition of "premature death". The figures that I gave in the Statement are quite clear: of 1,000 young people who are smoking at age 20, 250 of them will die in middle age of smoking-related diseases. A further 250 will die prematurely in later life. We are not just talking

10 Dec 1998 : Column 1064

of people losing a year of life at the end of their life, we are talking of large numbers of people dying in their middle years because of smoking-related diseases.

I accept in one sense what the noble Lord said about the importance of stressing in the messages why young people should not take up smoking--not only in the health messages but in the messages about the things that matter to them. The insidious message in the past about weight loss and smoking is perhaps one of the reasons that more young women than young men have taken up smoking. We have to target very carefully the advertising and educational campaigns.

It is also possible for us, who have listened to the health messages for more than 20 years, to over-estimate how well they have been translated to the 13, 14 and 15 year-olds of today. They have not been hearing these messages for 20 years in the same way that we have done. We have to make sure that they understand the health-related dangers very clearly. I am not sure that we have done so in the past.

Smuggling is a real and serious issue. We need to ensure that we take action against it. That is why it was announced that we are allocating the considerable sum of £35 million to the Customs and Excise over the next three years to implement the recommendations made in the Government review into alcohol and tobacco fraud. It is important that we ensure that we tackle effectively the smuggling going on at the moment, which for many reasons is dangerous and which is causing a loss of revenue to the Exchequer.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I speak for all members of all the health professions in welcoming this comprehensive White Paper. I notice that my noble friend the Minister has a very nasty cough. I am sure that in her case it has not been caused by the effects of smoking, either personal or environmental. I am sure that there is not much environmental smoke in the Department of Health.

I welcome my noble friend's remarks about how the £50 million to be allocated to an anti-smoking campaign will be spent. We should have learnt by now that big bill-board posters do not work. Certainly that was the case in campaigns to inform young people about drugs. If anything, drug-taking increased during those campaigns.

My first question relates to nicotine replacement therapy. Why not put it on prescription? People with low incomes will then be exempt from the charge and it would surely be far less bother to do that on a nation-wide scale than to allocate it to specified vulnerable groups. My noble friend may not have the figures available--perhaps she could write to me--but how much would it cost to put nicotine replacement on prescription?

The issue of health warnings on cigarette packets has not been mentioned. The present size of such warnings has been shown to be virtually useless. Have the Government any plans to increase the size of the health warnings so that they actually cover the whole of the side of a packet of cigarettes?

10 Dec 1998 : Column 1065

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, made the point about nicotine content as well as tar content being properly labelled on cigarettes. At the moment low-tar is a big con. People who smoke low-tar cigarettes are getting enough nicotine to keep their habit going.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page