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Mr. Hinchliffe: It has been argued by a number of people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley over a long period of time, that we need a tobacco regulatory authority to examine product safety. There are many arguments about whether the product is safe, whether it can be made safer, and whether there is any such thing as a safe cigarette. Many of us have grave doubts about that. A regulatory authority could also consider addiction, the arguments about whether low tar is less harmful, and, particularly, marketing strategies. It is nonsensical that nicotine replacement products are currently regulated but cigarettes are not. That seems absolutely absurd.
I understand that the Government have not introduced proposals for a regulatory authority because of a lack of parliamentary time, and because of the need for a Europe-wide regulatory body. I appreciate that, but I hope that, even at this stage, they will give further consideration to the strong arguments that have been made for the introduction of such a body.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): First, may I say that I have, in the past, agreed to be an arbitrator in tobacco suits outside this country? I was not chosen to do so, so I earned no money in that way, but I wanted to declare that interest.
The critical issues are how to reduce the number of people taking up smoking, and how to shorten the time that people are smokers. The Government have not adopted Clive Smee's estimate of a 7 per cent. impact of a ban on tobacco promotion and advertising. In their assessment, they have suggested 2.5 per cent., which I would guess involves a range from nought to 5 per cent. If that is the case, at most, 95 per cent. of the influence on people's smoking is presumed not to involve deliberate advertising or promotion.
As I suggested when I intervened on the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey), people are more likely to smoke if those around them smoke. Very few people suddenly say, "I would like to go out and buy some cigarettes, and try them by myself." They are nearly always offered a cigarette by someone else, or they start to think that if people slightly older than them smoke, they ought to try it. That gets them into the experimental phase, and from there they enter the confirmed smoker phase, after which the question is one of how soon they give up.
I suspect that more than half the people who take up smoking as a serious habit give up for the last time while still alive. I am not concerned with people such as Kipling, who found it very easy to give up because he gave up a thousand times. I estimate that many people share my experience, which was to smoke for about 20 years and then stop. I was one of the very few who took it up after the age of about 21, and I took it up because I had a friend who smoked.
If we are seriously interested in knowing what is happening, we should not quote figures in this debate that are two years out of date. When I had responsibility for helping to reduce the incidence of drink-driving casualties, a woman from Coca-Cola, Penny Hughes, came to see me. She showed me a succession of cohort studies that illustrated, in relation to carbonated drinks, what every six-month or one-year age group was doing in every six-month period and beyond.
Why can the House obtain every month the figures for the increase in retail prices to one part in 1,000, if we accept the statistics--or one part in 100, if we listen to the publicity--within a month of those figures becoming available? Why can we all say what the bank rate is? Whenever the rate changes, or even when it does not change, month by month, it is headline news. Why do we know to one part in 1,000 what the unemployment benefit claimant count is every month? We know those figures because they are calculated every month, and because people believe that it is important to know them.
Why, therefore, are we working with figures on the incidence of adult smoking--and for people aged about 15 or 16--that are two years out of date? Why, in the White Paper published in December 1998, are we limited to graphs showing the incidence of smoking in people
We should be demanding up-to-date figures and asking Ministers why they do not publish them, if they are available. I bet that the tobacco companies have them. Why do not those who are concerned with reducing the harm caused by smoking publish those figures once a month, once a quarter, or at least once every six months? We could then debate what is changing and what is not, how the circumstances differ from one region of the country to another, and the class figures. Perhaps I should refer to those as the analysis of socio-economic groups, to put it in more politically correct language.
We must also ask why the White Paper on smoking contains nine pictures of people smoking. Page 7 has a picture of a young woman smoking; on page 11, a man lights up; on page 19, girls are seen sharing a packet of fags; page 31 shows someone smoking; page 33 shows an older person smoking; a young mother is shown smoking on page 43; on page 68, there is a picture of a young man--I assume--smoking; page 72 has a man smoking; and a girl is shown smoking on page 81. If those who produce a Government document devoted to reducing smoking cannot show a single stub on the ground or a single ashtray--in other words, the things that are likely to make people think--one must wonder whether there might be some kind of spin, rhetoric or presentation involved.
I do not want to make this a party-political argument, because the issue is far too serious and is one in which not enough attention is paid to what I call the other 95 per cent. I shall not, therefore, develop many of the arguments about the ban and the promotion issue, except to say that there is no evidence anywhere in the world that a ban on tobacco advertising and promotion makes a very significant difference, although it might make a significant difference. To those who say, "If it saves only a few lives, it is worth while," I respond that the reason why we have just about the best--perhaps I should say the least worse--road casualty rate in the world is that people such as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and I, and Labour Members when they were previously Ministers, did not implement worthwhile provisions because they might save one life; we did so because they were likely to have a significant influence on what many people were doing, most of the time.
I shall give examples in which there could be a read-across, and from which we can learn a lesson in relation to this smoking business. When it became perfectly plain that parents should belt their children up in the backs of cars, using child restraints or seat belts, it was not until Esther Rantzen and the "That's Life" programme gave nine minutes to a doctor in, I think, January 1986, followed up by a bit of help from the Department and some video evidence--none of which cost much--that the rate of purchases of such restraints for children trebled from 300,000 a year to 1 million a year. The following year, when legislation on the matter went through Parliament, a single Member of Parliament or of the House of Lords could have blocked it, but no one did. That illustrated a change in the popular mood and in the culture.
If our first action had been to introduce a law stating that one could not take a child unrestrained in a car if a restraint was available--or that one could not take an unrestrained child in a car at all--there would have been arguments about restraints for 10 years, rather than arguments about protecting children and about what would work best.
Another example--one that I have used before in the House--is that of young men and drinking and driving. In 1987, the number of occasions on which young men drove a car having consumed more than the legal limit of alcohol was roughly 2 million a week. About two years later, that figure had evaporated to 600,000. A habit that was socially acceptable but illegal and body-breaking was reduced by two thirds with no changes in the law, in sentencing and in enforcement.
That change was made because people began to behave more acceptably, and what was acceptable also began to change. With the help of the Central Office of Information and some inspired people in the advertising and promotions world, we in the Department of Transport began to monitor the answers to the question, "Do you think that you have to drink at a party to enjoy yourself, even if you are driving home?" In 1987, the answer was usually yes; in 1989, it was usually no. There was criticism in the newspapers and from the British Medical Association and various others that we were taking the wrong approach, but, by using that question and knowing the incidences, we knew that what we were doing was working. We also monitored the answer to the question, "Will people think that you are a wimp if you say no to a drink because you are driving?" The answer switched from predominantly yes to no.
I want to make two or three recommendations on smoking, but not because they relate to the Conservative amendment or the Bill. We should stop saying to young people of 13, 15 or 17 who smoke, "You are too young." We must say, "You are taking up smoking at the age at which young people are expected to take up smoking. You are doing an expected childish thing." Although these figures are probably out of date, we should add to that, "Do you know that marketing managers are paid £170,000 a year to find their share of the 5,000 replacement smokers needed each week?"
Earlier, I asked about the real cessation figures. Again, I may have used the wrong figures or ones that are out of date, but I believe that about 5,000 people a week were stopping smoking and would never do so again--2,000 because they had died and many, but not all, prematurely. Some people, such as Deng Xiaoping in China, died in their eighties, but perhaps he would have made it to his nineties if he had not smoked. About 3,000 people gave up for the last time while still alive. Tobacconists were selling roughly the same number of cigarettes a week, although there may have been a secular decline, which meant that 5,000 people a week were starting to smoke. The marketing people had the responsibility to get at least their share of that number.
If 15 or 16-year-olds want to keep a marketing manager in £170,000 a year, a £25,000 motor car and unchallenged expenses of £250 a week to take people to lunch, all they have to do is fall in line when their turn comes and become a smoker. I do not know the experience of other hon. Members, but when my children learned to speak, their first sentence was, "It's not fair." They had a sense of injustice and of being exploited. One should say to
We must change our attitude to seeing people smoke. Instead of looking a person in the eye in a challenging way and saying, "What a blithering idiot you are, wasting as much money on fags each day as most people spend on the national lottery in a week," one ought to turn about and appear to wipe away a tear. In the same way that people might be sympathetic if I were wearing a red ribbon because someone close to me might be affected by HIV or AIDS, the signal of wiping away a tear would say, "I'm deeply sympathetic, but I'm sorry--I can't do anything about it." Most people can take criticism; what they cannot take is sympathy. Extending sympathy to those who smoke is a smart idea.
I want the Government regularly to publish up-to-date figures on their three targets: the young, expectant mothers and the overall adult population. About 700,000 babies are born each year, which is not a large number, and there are about 1.4 million new parents--it takes two to tango. It is worth remembering that the figures researched and produced by Arthur and Peggy Wynn show that the chances of a child having an identifiable severe congenital malformation are about 0.8 per cent. if the father does not smoke, but about 2 per cent. if he does. Those figures are worth publicising.
I damn the media for paying so much attention to the triple vaccine and related issues when coverage of smoking could make a significant difference to postponing the deaths of about 2,000 people a week. No one from the media is in the Gallery for the debate, even though smoking is perhaps one of the biggest public health issues. Media efforts could make the work on drink-driving look pretty insignificant, although it was obviously worth while.
Let me make a suggestion to the Government: why not pick out one or two people from, for example, the British Lung Foundation and give them the same honours that have rightly been given to people involved in the heart world? Lungs matter just as much as hearts, and smoking is bad for both, so acknowledging the British Lung Foundation and other organisations would make sense.
My final point takes us back to the facts, or the statistics. We know about smoking and health because of the work of medical statisticians such as Bradford Hill, Peto and Doll. Some have rightly been recognised, but have often had to wait 20 or 30 years. Too often, our debates in the House are not backed by science. Members, whether Ministers or otherwise, are damned if they use statistics, but evidence-based medicine ought to be matched by evidence-based politics. We need people who are persistent on these issues--not just in tackling the law, but by being willing to take up the microphone and speak out, as I and others did over drink-driving. That would probably make a difference for the estimated 95 per cent. of smokers who would not be affected by a ban on