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Mr. Atkinson: My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) is quite right. It is estimated that very large sums are lost--perhaps as much as £5 billion, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) says. Problems arising from high taxation forced Canada to reduce the price of cigarettes, with the result that the authorities made more money than they had before because people stopped bringing bootleg products over the border from the United States.
I have another point to make about how the proposed ban will affect smoking habits. It can be argued that, because advertising aims to identify brands and make individual brands popular, the brands advertised are often premium brands that many young people like to smoke. The danger of banning advertising is that it might make bootleg brands even more popular: their tar content is often higher than that of premium brands; they are, therefore, far more dangerous cigarettes than the premium brands sold in this country. Perversely, a ban might damage young people's health, not help it.
To return to my central point, the Government have failed to produce any figures that convince me that a ban on tobacco advertising would reduce consumption of cigarettes. The individual liberty of the citizen should therefore prevail.
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): I begin by declaring a series of interests. I was for many years a smoker; I am not now. I took ill as a result of smoking, suffering a major heart attack three and a half years ago. I have for years represented in the courts smugglers, crooks and criminals who have smuggled, fiddled and defrauded--and been acquitted, usually owing to my efforts--in connection with cigarettes, alcohol and just about every other substance one can think of. I have been a guest of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association at Lords cricket ground and rugby league cup finals, where the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) has sat at the same table and joined the same company as me. I have represented tobacco agents; I have attended operas, shows and musical entertainments, all declared and all paid for by the tobacco industry.
I have a track record about which I can be truly appalled. Tonight, I hope to try to bring some sanity and levity to what is not merely a serious argument but a deadly one: how do we stop people smoking?
I stopped because I had a heart attack. Believe me, dying is not a pleasant experience--I know that only too well. Coming back is quite a frightening experience--the broken ribs, the red marks on my chest. The look of sorrow on the faces of my family who still cared for me and who realised how stupid I had been in walking into a self-imposed death sentence--that is something that will never leave my mind. To those in the Royal Free hospital here in London who saved my life, and to the nurse whose name I do not know who taught me how to stop smoking, I will owe eternal gratitude, as will my wife, my family and my sons.
I say that in all seriousness and sensibility, because the cause of my being in that hospital was my own crass stupidity. Forty years or more ago I, like so many young people, thought that I, a fit, robust, handsome idiot, could play rugby, smoke my fags, down my pints and get the girls. I thought that it was clever. I did not realise that my clothes smelled; I did not recognise the stink and inconvenience that I caused to other people, or the damage that I would cause to my family and friends. However, time has taught me something, which is why I rose to speak in tonight's debate. If nothing else, I hope that the lessons that I have learned in life will persuade at least one person not to smoke again, one retailer not to sell cigarettes, or one smuggler not to bother smuggling; then, my experience will have served a useful purpose.
What does tobacco do for people? It relaxes them, we are told. It also clogs up their arteries. It makes people suave and sophisticated, we are told. They have smelly breath and smelly clothes. It is cool, we are told. Is it? Who is cool with a piece of ash dangling from his or her fingers? No one. It took me 50-something years to learn that. I have learned, but I do not condemn others who smoke. I merely ask them to learn from my example.
People speak about human rights, as the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) did a few moments ago. I know a little about human rights, having practised for more than 30 years. Human rights and the convention have been around a lot longer than since October last year. They have been around since the early 1950s, long before I became a practising lawyer.
Human rights are a two-way process. When I smoke and my smoke invades someone else's space, it is that person's right that I have invaded, and that person's human right that I am abusing. I am asking someone else to endure or enjoy what I am taking upon myself. When I encourage someone to do something, I invade that person's human rights, because the behaviour in question may be harmful. Do I have some privilege that entitles me to do that? Surely the other person is equally entitled to the right to clear air. Surely the customers at the table next to me in the restaurant are entitled to enjoy their meal without my pollutant passing quietly past their noses. Let us forget the human rights argument. It does not take us anywhere.
We have the commercial right to sell a product. If we had had this debate in 1901, I could have suggested that we adjourned to the local cocaine or heroin den. Those were legal. Tobacco was legal, too. We remember why the licensing laws were imposed: it was feared that the ladies in the munitions works in the years from 1914 onwards might drink too much gin before they filled the shelves.
Legality is only what society rules it should be. There are those who argue that cannabis should be legal. That is a legitimate argument, although I do not agree with it. People have long argued that tobacco should be legal. I understand the argument, but what about heroin, cocaine and cannabis? What about alcohol?
I argue against myself, because I cheerfully admit that I do not mind the odd drop myself, even if I break the occasional toe--as was reported in the press on Saturday--when my shoe does not fit and I kick the shoe off and hit the wall instead. That is one of those tragedies.
Let us consider what is contained in the Bill. It is no radical measure. It merely states that tobacco shall not be advertised. As has been pointed out, we agreed some time ago that there should be no tobacco advertising on television. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) made a simple and telling point when he said that if we think that cigarettes are bad for people, and that it is rather silly to smoke, we should persuade others by example that our point of view is right. As a society, we should begin to behave responsibly about such matters.
I was watching television last night--which programme does not matter--and throughout the film, I could see the cigarette packet. Those cigarettes were not just invented. At the beginning of the century in Ireland, for example, one of the brands of cigarette available was Carrolls.
Why do we not take the sensible point of view? Why do we not acknowledge that smoking is not good for people, and that it is rather a silly pastime? Pop stars are the icons of our young, as we well understand, and they should not give a bad example by smoking. They should not be filmed for cinema or television while they are smoking: as has been said, they should be asked to put their cigarette out.
How many times was I asked, when I smoked, to put my cigarette out before an interview and before filming began on the green or somewhere round the House? Hundreds of times. Why do we not insist, in films, television plays and the soaps to which we are all to some degree addicted, that there is no smoking?
Mr. Bermingham: That is precisely my point. If society were responsible, and it became known to those who make films that we would not tolerate smoking, they would not portray smokers in their films. If we make it obvious to them that that is what we demand, as a society and as a European market--a massive market--we will find the Americans rather quick on the uptake when it comes to brass. If they know that no such contracts will be permitted in films to be shown in the United Kingdom and on the continent, we can bet our bottom dollar that Sylvester Silverstone or whatever he is called--a Freudian slip, perhaps--will soon cease to require such contracts and the makers will not be able to enforce such terms.
If we have the will, there is no problem. We must also deal with other aspects, such as smuggling. I shall give a simple example. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will pass on to the Treasury a message that there is a little thing that Customs officers could do that would help.
In a recent case, I asked a Customs officer what he considered enough for one's personal needs, and he said "several thousand". I said, "What?" In the old days, when people came in from abroad, 200 fags was the maximum. Now they can bring in a van load, and stack the booze up to the roof--"It's all for me own consumption, guv. I've got four crates of wine here, two pallets of beer, two and a half thousand fags. We're going to have a party." People say it every day, coming through Dover, Folkestone and God knows where else.
I know from professional knowledge and experience that in the south-east of England, 83 per cent. of all hand-rolled tobacco is smuggled. There is a town in Belgium, whose name I shall not advertise for fear the mole might seek to use it, where there are seven warehouses that do nothing but provide hand-rolled tobacco for southern England. We are aware of that, but the Belgian Government will not co-operate because it is not an offence in Belgium, so we cannot extradite anyone to stand trial in this country. I should hate to tell the House how much the Revenue lost in that case in which I was involved. Lorryloads--not truckloads--of tobacco were coming in.
For once, let us get real about the present situation concerning cigarettes. In Benidorm, there are warehouses stuffed full of English manufactured cigarettes with English health warnings on the packets. They are brought back in, having been shipped out. Provided they are brought back a couple of thousand at a time, the whole lot will come through.