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The Cancer Research UK report is based on a long-term study, which several noble Lords have mentioned. I shall not go into detail on that, but there is no doubt that a study that, over nine years, involved 5,900 children between 11 and 16 is one that we need to take extremely seriously. We have a responsibility to protect young people from tobacco promotion.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, as I continue my remarks they may, perhaps, help the noble Earl, who was not here for the first part of the debate. I shall not repeat every detail that all noble Lords said earlier about the policy, but the national statistics on youth smoking show that, from 2002 to 2007, the proportion of children between 11 and 15 who ever smoked fell from 42 to 33 per cent, and the number who smoked regularly fell from 10 to 6 per cent. We know that our tobacco control strategy has been effective so far; we want to go further.
We also know that nicotine is highly addictive. It is easy for people to become addicted to smoking and, once addicted, someone who smokes is not making a choice to smokethey are hooked. Research clearly shows that seeing a tobacco display when you are
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What, however, are the downsides? Plenty of information has been given to Peers suggesting that removing tobacco displays will be a doomsday, for all sorts of reasons. For example, we have heard a great deal about how covering tobacco displays in shops will make life difficult for customers who want to choose their brand, yet 90 per cent of smokers know exactly which brand they wish to buy before entering a shop and, as I have said in a previous debate, brands enjoy incredibly high brand loyalty. Whether a huge, well lit and colourful display is available will not deter the smoking customer, who will still make the additional purchases that are so important for the small shopkeepers. For those who want to check prices when buying tobacco products, the retailer will still have prices on show in their shop.
On the cost, over the past few months we have seen the tobacco industry and tobacco company-funded retail organisations attempting to panic shopkeepers about this proposed change. We are working closely with retailer groups, such as the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium, to ensure the most straightforward and cost-effective solutions can be found to remove tobacco displays. Frankly, I say shame on the tobacco industry scaremongers for unnecessarily panicking decent, honest shopkeepers who serve their communities well.
I turn to the points made on this issue by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. We have not misled the House but given information in good faith, based on quotes received by the Department of Health from the vice-president of a Canadian company with experience of how Canada removed tobacco displays. The company told us that the cost of a permanent solution for a single business with 25 square feet of display, with magnetic flaps applied to existing gantries, was £8.47 per square foot. It would total £212 to remove that much display. The same quoted costs should be as little as £120 for a minimal display of around 14 square feet in a very small, independent newsagent. Those costs have been used to illustrate that other countries have used low-cost solutions; they are not, for example, the basis for the analysis of our impact assessment, which uses a more generous figure of £1,000 per shop, but have been used to combat the alarmist figures circulated by the tobacco industry.
We understand that the same company also provided quotes to the charity ASH, and my noble friend has answered that point. The costings given to ASH were not the basis of the letter to Peers from my noble friend Lord Darzi, or for the information given through debates and in other government briefings provided for Peers. The information given by the Government relates to the quotes received directly by us in good
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Lord Naseby: My Lords, can we be quite clear that this is the 4 Solutions company of Canada, which is now quoted as saying that it costs £420, and that that does not include the fixture of the particular gantry? Is that correct?
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am giving the information that we were given when we asked how much it would cost to cover those gantries, and that is the answer which we passed on to noble Lords. Other noble Lords have pointed out that the Canadian company, although not owned by the tobacco industry, has as its major customers the tobacco companies and that there may be a conflict of interest. However, we are committed to finding low-cost solutions to this; we are certainly not in the business of frightening shopkeepers about it. We are also giving them a great deal of time for enforcing this.
There are a number of different ways in which tobacco displays could be removed from sight. Regulations would be designed to enable retailers to find the solution that suits them best. We would have a full public consultation on draft regulations. We will not force tobacco under the counter. I repeat that nothing here forces tobacco under there. That is more scaremongering. Solutions could include keeping the same tobacco shelving by simply adding covers, which could be cheaply designed while remaining professional in appearance, with the new blank space offering the opportunity for retailers to sell advertising space for other products at a key place by their tills. Even with the generous high estimate in our impact assessment, this policy remains cost-effective because the consequences of smoking are so dire.
We have been in the vanguard of tobacco control. Removing tobacco displays is the next important step in tackling the harms caused by smoking. Canada, Iceland and others have already done it. The Republic of Ireland has just agreed to do it from July this year. Further, I was delighted to hear today that Western Australia has just committed to removing displays.
I finish by commending the work of organisations such as Cancer Research UK, ASH and the British Medical Association, which have worked hard to provide us with the evidence we need to tackle smoking. Removing tobacco displays is another important step towards a tobacco-free world, one where children are protected and people who want to quit are supported to do so.
I thank noble Lords who have spoken in support of this policy. I have to confess that I am disappointed and regret the position taken by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, but I urge her colleagues to follow the exhortations of the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Tonge. I therefore commend Clause 19 to the House.
Lord Cotter: My Lords, those of us who are very concerned about children who smoke do not feel convinced about removing displays. What does she say
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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, we have taken the illicit trade of tobacco very seriously and have made great progress in dealing with it. It remains a priority for the Government. We have published our Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Together, we have seized 14 billion illicit cigarettes and over 1,000 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco, so far we have broken up 370 criminal gangs, and we have successfully prosecuted 2,000 people. We will continue to do this. We believe that using that issue in this argument is a red herring.
Earl Howe: My Lords, this has been a very good debate. I thank those noble Lords who have taken part from whichever perspective. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, for presenting the official view of her party with such persuasiveness. Like her, I take a simple view of this sort of proposal, which is that a Government can only justify imposing costs and burdens on business if the evidence is unarguably there to do so. I believe that in this case the evidence is very weak.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that the research I quoted, which directly contradicts the Governments position, was commissioned by the Department of Health. It was not anything to do with the tobacco companies. Many things drive young people to smoke. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that social deprivation is one of the major things. I simply do not believe that tobacco displays have been shown to be remotely equivalent as an influence on behaviour.
Those whose business it is to campaign on cancer and health matters are naturally on the side of any measure that might have the slightest effect of reducing smoking prevalence. I understand that but, if we look at what is being said by Ministers, there is more than a flavour of the ends being used to justify the means. I do not think it is right to do that here. The Government could take all sorts of measures that would have nothing like the same damaging effect on small businesses, but which nevertheless usefully contribute to the anti-smoking drive. A ban on proxy purchases by adults for children would be one of them. However, they have rejected those alternatives and chosen instead to take a route that brings with it what I see as unacceptable collateral damage. The evidence from Canada is there, including the evidence that children are turning ever more frequently to smuggled tobacco. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, that that is what we really should be worrying about.
It is already illegal to sell cigarettes to childrenit is a criminal offenceso deterring them from buying cigarettes in shops is an aim with questionable dividends in terms of child health. I believe that we should think about the people and the communities whom this measure will affect most if small shops start to disappear, as I fear they will. I also believe that we owe it to ourselves to sign up to a policy only if the evidence supports it. I do not think it remotely succeeds in doing so. I therefore think it is right for me to test the opinion of the House.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, we have heard the arguments about health for children and those against having temptations for children. I now want to address vending machines. It is said that less than 1 per cent of tobacco sales are from vending machines. The British Heart Foundation estimated that in 2006, more than 46,000 children acquired their cigarettes from vending machines. Forty-five million cigarettes were sold to 11 to 15 year-olds through vending machines. There are 22 countries in Europe that have already taken the step of banning vending machines. Banning vending machines will not restrict smokers choice at all; in fact, it will support those small shopkeepers on whose behalf we have previously heard arguments.
If someone is desperate to get their packet of cigarettes and there is not a vending machine in the club, they will go to the small local corner shop, most of which are open until late at night. However, the reality is that among adults, only about one in 20 uses a vending machine. Underage children and teenagers can easily obtain cigarettes from vending machines. They are meant to be installed in the eyesight of whoever is manning the bar in a pub, but within the eyesight sometimes means not facing the majority of customers and serving the majority of customers.
There have been several studies of young people going in and flagrantly buying cigarettes from vending machines. It has been argued, If the ID was enforced more closely, they could be monitored more closely. The reality is that all one has to do is to type Fake ID into Google and it can be bought for £25. It looks remarkably like any normal ID. Someone serving in a pub or bar with many customers will not be able to tell the difference. Indeed, when I was shown a so-called European driving licence, I did not spot that it was
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I can see no argument for maintaining vending machines. It has been said that the vending machine manufacturers might feel under threat, but they would not be. They can easily put other things in boxes of that size. I have a couple of commercial suggestions for them: a his and hers refresher pack; his containing aftershave, a toothbrush, some breath freshener and deodorant; hers containing deodorant, a personal wipe and a toothbrush. They could also contain other things or become lucky-dip vending machines. There is no sound commercial argument for maintaining cigarette vending machines, but there is a sound health argument to remove a large source of cigarettes for the underage when we know that 17 per cent of children get their cigarettes through vending machines.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I will tell your Lordships a story about what happened recently in a survey in the north-east of England. Child smokers as young as 11 were found to be able to buy cigarettes easily from vending machines. The tests were carried out by trading standards officers across the north-east using a range of volunteer purchasers aged from 11 to 16, who went into bars, pubs, amusement arcades, bowling alleys and other outlets across the region. On most occasions the children were able to buy cigarettes from machines unchallenged by bar or other staff. The staff even helped on some occasions, when the children were having difficulty getting the money to stay in the slot. One 15 year-old was given change by the staff to ensure that he could buy from the machine.
The results were 99 attempts made and 58 successful purchases. The North East Trading Standards Association has recently called for cigarette vending machines to be banned, and undertook this work to show just how easy it is for children to buy this dangerous product even though the legal age of sale for tobacco in the UK is now 18. Surveys show that 17 per cent of regular smokers aged 11 to 15 usually buy their cigarettes from vending machines, whereas, in contrastas my noble friend has saidin 2008 only one in 20 adult daily smokers said that they had bought cigarettes from vending machines in the previous six months.
The evidence makes it clear that the measures in law to control the purchase of cigarettes from vending machines are being widely flouted. This comes from studies undertaken in Newcastle, the county of Northumberland, Middlesbrough, south Tyneside, Durham, Sunderland, Gateshead, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. I cannot but say that the evidence to ban the sale of cigarettes from machines is compelling. I support the amendment.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I can bring your Lordships a little closer to home than the noble Lord, Lord Walton. Yesterday, I hosted a meeting in a Committee Room upstairs on behalf of the British Heart Foundation, which showed a film that had been shot in three pubs very close to your Lordships House. The identities of the pubs were carefully concealed and, in them, there were two 14 year-olds, a boy and
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The answer, of course, was that it was very easy indeed. The children succeeded in each pub. The bar staff on the premises had no interest whatever in the fact that the children were in there and buying cigarettes; indeed, they may not have even seen them doing it because the vending machines were not directly in their line of sight. When the boy found it a little difficult to put money into the machine, a customer helpfully said, I shouldnt do that, it thinks youre underage. Indeed he was, but he had no difficulty in getting the cigarettes out.
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