Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I agree wholly with the noble Baroness about the tactics of the tobacco lobby. It is attempting to use smoke and mirrors in order to confuse us—and it is spending a fortune in doing so. A major part of its campaign is to cast doubt on the evidence base. To those of your Lordships who have received representations from groups such as Responsible Retailers or the save our shops campaign, I offer one sentence of advice: be aware of who is behind these bodies.

I have received letters and e-mails from the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, to which the noble Earl referred, which is funded entirely by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association. That association, in turn, is funded by three of the world's largest tobacco companies: British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and the Gallaher Group. The same Tobacco Retailers Alliance also runs the save our shops campaign and Responsible Retailers.

Hiding behind front organisations is something that the tobacco industry has done for years. Another favourite trick is to fund pieces of work by apparently respectable research organisations, and then—provided that the findings are what it wants to hear—trumpet the results. Many of your Lordships may have received from the Tobacco Retailers Alliance two reports from a body called the Centre for Economic and Business Research. I checked with the CEBR, which eventually confirmed in an e-mail to me that the reports were produced for and paid for by the clients—in other words, the tobacco industry. I think it would be in the research organisation’s interest, if in the list of clients that it publishes on its website—there are 33 of them—it would somewhere refer to the fact that the tobacco industry is one of those clients.

I suggest that there are two questions that need answers. First, is there an evidence base for the prohibition of point-of-sale displays? Secondly, are the measures that the Government are proposing proportionate to

6 May 2009 : Column 578

dealing with the problem? I believe that the evidence does exist. It is rigorous and it stands up to scrutiny. There is an interesting report from Channel 4 called FactCheck, which describes itself rightly as:

“Impartial, empirical, reliable and dispassionate”.

It goes on to say:

“Channel 4 FactCheck scrutinises the claims and counter claims of those in the public eye".

In this case it looked at the evidence base for the prohibition of point-of-sale displays and advised that it,

Also, on the evidence base, the all-party Health Committee in the other place stated in its report on health inequalities:

“Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of health inequalities; we welcome both the Government's ban on smoking in public places, and its intention to ban point of sale tobacco advertising, as evidence indicates that both of these measures may have a positive impact on health inequalities”.

This issue of health inequalities is important, because the evidence points to the fact that smoking accounts for half of the differences in life expectancy between social class 1 and social class 5. It is imperative that we act to protect children; otherwise there will be a lasting legacy of inequality.

I turn to the evidence from the research conducted by Professor Gerard Hastings. I, too, went to the presentation, which I know that the noble Earl went to. I am disappointed that he was not impressed by what Professor Hastings had to say, because I believe that every other Member of your Lordships’ House who was there—with perhaps two exceptions—was convinced by him. His research on point of sale is based on a long-term study called the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey. This survey has taken place five times since 1999, and over a nine-year period almost 5,900 children between the ages of 11 and 16 from a variety of social backgrounds have taken part. There have been a number of peer-reviewed papers from this work, and Professor Hastings’s report of last August on point-of-sale displays forms an extension of previous papers. Crucially, this report encompasses not just one but four separate survey waves, of almost 4,500 young people between 1999 and 2006.

These are rigorous research techniques and, not surprisingly, the tobacco industry has tried to discredit them. In doing so, it has used exactly the same tactics that it used when it attempted to dispute that smoking causes cancer—Professor Doll’s original findings—that advertising increases tobacco use, that nicotine is addictive and, most recently, that second-hand smoke is harmful to health. It stuck to its script, which has been revealed in internal tobacco industry documents, that it would claim,

It is simply attacking this research because the implications of protecting young children and preventing 60,000 child smokers from being recruited each year are bad for business if you are a tobacco company that is desperate to recruit new young customers as you kill off the older ones.

6 May 2009 : Column 579

There is more evidence. At the recent World Conference on Tobacco or Health, further evidence was submitted from New Zealand based on research with 25,000 young people. They found that 15 year-olds most exposed to point-of-sale displays are almost three times more likely to try to start smoking. It was identified that exposure to point of sale is a greater risk factor than even parental smoking.

I will say one word on proportionality. The Government have already given ground on their original proposals and will bring in the prohibition of point-of-sale displays two years later, in 2013, for smaller retailers, compared with 2011 for the larger ones. This will give an adequate lead-in time for retailers to prepare.

We know that low-cost solutions exist which are in widespread use in other countries, and these are entirely feasible in the UK as well. The recommended supplier to the Canadian Convenience Stores Association has produced a number of quotes—separately, not at the request of ASH, to ASH and to the Department of Health—for the cost of covers for a retail display gantry of the size found in a typical small shop in the UK. The covers are lightweight PVC, which the company stated should last a minimum of seven years. They are designed to fit behind the security shutters and be simple enough for the retailer to fit himself if he wants to.

Something has happened over recent weeks since the company was willing to give evidence to the Department of Health and to anyone else who asked for it, such as ASH. It appears that the Canadian Convenience Stores Association has been putting pressure on it to attempt to get it to backtrack on the ease and the low cost of providing displays in the United Kingdom. Noble Lords must make up their own minds whether they think that such pressure has been applied. I have no direct evidence of it, but something very strange has happened. The fact remains that the displays are in use in Canada, they have been installed properly in retail outlets and they are working fine there.

5.30 pm

Lord Naseby: My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: Of course.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, is he saying that 4 Solutions’ statement that the gantries will cost £450 and not £120, and that this figure does not include fitting costs estimated at £1,000, is absolute rubbish?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, on the contrary; there are very interesting negotiations to be had with any company prepared to supply these gantries. The company in Canada may be one of those that will tender for the contract. However, the experience of retailers working with the tobacco industry is that the industry will be more than ready to pay for these displays, because it wants to go on selling its products in these shops; so the retailers do not have anything to worry about.

We must avoid continuing the situation that Professor Hastings described in his letter to the Times on 27 April, in which he described corner shops being turned into

6 May 2009 : Column 580

shrines to tobacco. He also observed that the industry had duped small shopkeepers into doing its dirty work. I hope that noble Lords do not fall for a line that is coming directly from the tobacco lobby.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, this clause has a strong whiff of the Hunting Act: I do not think that a single noble Lord will have his mind changed by the debate on the clause this afternoon. I am convinced that there is not one Member of this House who does not support the intention of Her Majesty’s Government to stop young people from starting to smoke. However, the provisions in Clause 19 are not the answer.

We have all been inundated by letters from both sides of the argument. Like other noble Lords, I have been moved to tears by some of them. Small independent retailers, many of whom are from an ethnic minority, fear deeply for their livelihoods. Some busy retailers to whom I have spoken recently sell a packet of cigarettes every 30 seconds. If tobacco products are kept out of sight under the counter, the poor retailer will have to start performing like a circus juggler.

Noble Lords may remember that, during the course of the last Health Bill, I introduced an amendment to prohibit the sale of tobacco. The logic behind this was that if we should not smoke, we should not be allowed to purchase tobacco. As I said at Second Reading, I then discovered that 27 per cent of all cigarettes smoked in the United Kingdom are illegally purchased, doing the Treasury out of more than £3 billion annually. This is where many young people buy their tobacco, and this is where Her Majesty’s Government should be legislating, rather than depriving legitimate retailers of their livelihoods, earned by selling what is, after all, a legal product. If Clause 19 remains part of the Bill, it will be an expensive nightmare for retailers to implement. It will not achieve what Her Majesty’s Government want. I support the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that Clause 19 should not stand part of the Bill.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I believe that the protection of children should be at the heart of this legislation, and that proposals on the prohibition of point-of-sale displays for cigarettes represent a golden opportunity to improve the nation’s health in a spectacular way, by preventing ill health through reducing the impact of tobacco marketing on young people.

Not even tobacco firms now deny that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, strokes and a host of other conditions. However, let us not forget that for decades they spent millions on producing such denials; and that while so doing, they suppressed scientific and medical evidence. Prevention is better than cure; and the proposal to put tobacco out of sight will help to prevent our children and young people from taking up smoking, from becoming unwittingly addicted and from putting themselves at greater risk in later life of ill health and premature death.

I reiterate my firm belief that the protection of children should be at the heart of the legislation. To rob future generations of the chance to grow up free from the influence of tobacco marketing is just wrong. Let us remember that we have the awesome responsibility to formulate legislation that improves the health of future generations rather than the continuation of the burden of ill health which arises from tobacco.

6 May 2009 : Column 581

In removing tobacco products from sight, we will be joining the growing number of other countries that are putting their children first; they are Australia, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand and Thailand. I will admit that tobacco remains a legal product, but it is addictive and deadly, which is why its marketing has been subject to legal controls for many years—for example, through the ban of advertising on television or in cinemas. The proposal to prohibit tobacco displays is simply a further step in Britain’s journey as our awareness of the complex and enduring interaction between marketing and its impact on children increases. The prohibition of point-of-sale displays should also be seen as part of a comprehensive tobacco strategy, which was discussed in Grand Committee and welcomed on all sides.

This opportunity to secure better public health should be welcomed not weakened. It will be a sad day for us and, more importantly for our nation’s children if this House rejects the proposals to save future generations from the lethal addiction to tobacco.

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I shall make two brief points in opposing this amendment and in supporting the Government. First, even if the evidence on tobacco is incomplete or ambivalent, it is reasonable to err on the side of caution, such as by banning point-of-sale displays or, indeed, the availability of vending machines. Tobacco is not like other products, such as alcohol or foods high in salt, sugar or fat. For those products, there is a genuine role for education and advice to encourage sensible consumption that is balanced or moderate. We know what healthy eating looks like, what the sensible drinking message says, but there is no sensible smoking message. The nature and scale of the harm caused by tobacco means that there is no such role for consumer education. Perhaps there is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of this proposed measure. Perhaps Saskatchewan and Iceland are not the perfect comparatives for the UK, but the certainty of the scientific knowledge that we have about the harm caused, together with the common sense that many of us feel, particularly as parents, lead me to support the Government.

Secondly, I agree that this is not the only measure that we need if we want to influence young people’s behaviour. It is about far wider cultural change and about socio-economic factors that have been mentioned. The ban on smoking in public places has shown that there is an interesting and useful relationship between legislation and culture change—often bringing about culture change more quickly than might have been expected. Very few people would now think it was either right or normal to smoke in a pub or a restaurant. I believe that it will not be long before the general public will also regard tobacco displays in shops and vending machines in the same negative way. I feel strongly that we should help this trend on its way by supporting the measure.

Lord Judd: My Lords, the point that strikes me most forcefully in this argument is not only that we are protecting children—I am with the noble Baroness opposite completely on this—but that we are dealing with a killer. Tobacco is a killer, and we need to put it as bluntly and starkly as that.

6 May 2009 : Column 582

The problem with all the rationalisations we have been hearing, particularly from the Opposition Benches, is that it results in confused messages being sent to vulnerable people in society. The message that this is a killer and that we will do nothing to promote it, directly or indirectly, is not clear-cut. The message is that, in certain conditions and in certain ways, we can promote it.

I simply ask noble Lords to look at the neurosis which the nation has worked itself up to on Mexican flu. Would we be hearing such rationalisations in that kind of sphere? Of course not: we would be saying that the nation must combine in making sure that what is necessary is done. I wish we could hear a united voice at this juncture.

I want to express one caveat about the general strategy. It has already been mentioned by noble Lords this afternoon. I believe that those who share the strong view I just expressed would be very foolish if they supposed that we could win the battle simply by prohibitions of this sort. There must be a comprehensive social strategy.

I take one example, and I want to challenge the Opposition very specifically on this. My own daughter worked with a team dedicated to persuading pregnant women and young mothers not to smoke. It was a pioneer project for the National Health Service and the Lambeth Borough Council. She was determined that this project should succeed, and, indeed, the team won a refunding, which was illustration that it was making progress. I am not altogether certain that she would be very happy with me talking about this, but her comments made such an impression on me that I am going to. She confided in me that one of the realities she had to face was that, for many of the young women within her sphere of responsibility, about the only break they got in a tough, unacceptable life was their fag. If that is the case, it seems to me that we have to address the issues of deprivation, disadvantage, and overstressed single parents. When I hear those arguments coming powerfully from the Opposition Benches, I will begin to listen to them in their other rationalisations.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I think the argument put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, against this clause was unassailable. He was, in fact, correct in everything he said, and he produced facts which we have not previously heard. Before I go any further, I should declare that, although I do not now smoke, I am a member of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club. They tolerate me as an associate member.

One of the reasons I am opposed to such legislation is my belief that smokers, shopkeepers and the people who make cigarettes and tobacco products have been under a vicious attack for a very long time. Since I believe in individual freedom and democracy, I also believe that this attack has been unfair and, in many cases, not backed by real medical evidence and science. I will not, however, go into that now.

We have been assailed by a great deal of lobbying: we have had glossy magazines and letters from all sorts of people on both sides of the argument. In a

6 May 2009 : Column 583

democracy, where we have a free Parliament—at least, I hope that it is still free—people are entitled to lobby and they are entitled to be believed and given the benefit of the doubt that they are lobbying in good faith. It is altogether unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and others should have attacked the tobacco industry in the way that they did. The tobacco industry feels that it is under attack but, after all, it is an industry and it is entitled to use the profits that it gets from smokers to protect its own interests and those of smokers.

As I said, the tobacco industry uses its own money, but ASH, of which the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, is a member, uses taxpayers’ money to promote its non-smoking agenda. Indeed, I can read out the figures. From 2005-06 to 2007-08, it received £556,400, and in the years before that it received more than £2 million. In addition, to help it with No Smoking Day, a further £750,000 of taxpayers’ money was used by anti-smoking organisations. If the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, wishes to intervene, he may do so.

5.45 pm

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to do so because he made exactly the same point in Grand Committee. On that occasion, I said that,

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, that is a pretty poor defence, if I may say so. If ASH really wants to be as pure as it wants the tobacco industry to be, it should refuse the government grants and, indeed, repay the grants that it has already received.

It is not only retailers and the tobacco industry that have lobbied your Lordships; I instance Unite, which is a very large trade union that pays a lot of money in affiliation fees to the Labour Party. It, too, is concerned about this legislation. I shall not take the House through the whole document that I have before me but will quote just the executive summary:

“The UK tobacco industry is highly profitable for the Treasury, generating tax revenue of £10 billion”.

By God, how we need that money at the moment; we should not refuse it. Unite did not say that; those are my own words. The second point is:

“There are currently 6,500 people working in the tobacco sector and supports a supply chain of 80,000 people in the UK alone”.

Thirdly, it says:

“The tobacco sector is the top contributor to the UK’s balance of trade, and exports goods worth £984 million”.

The fourth point is:

“The illegal trade in tobacco products is costing the UK tax payer and the public sector £4.3 billion”.

Fifthly, it says:

“Since 1970 job losses in the sector have amounted to 40,000 in the UK alone. Unite believes there would have been government intervention if this had happened in any other manufacturing industry”,

6 May 2009 : Column 584

which now represents only 11 per cent of total GDP. Those final words are mine.

“The UK has one of the highest tobacco taxation levels in the world and this is clearly driving the growth in illegal unregulated tobacco products”;


“There is a clear and insidious link between the illegal counterfeit tobacco trade and organised crime”.

I will not go on. I think that that is quite enough.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page