Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Ian Bruce: I am sure that my hon. Friend thought as I did when she got to the end of clause 1, which states:

    ```tobacco advertisement' and `tobacco product' have the meaning given in section 1,''

That is sketchy information, but I assumed that I would find a better definition further on in the Bill—unfortunately, there it merely refers to the meaning given in section 1. The term is so ill defined.

Mrs. Spelman: Yes, that is my point. In fact, the explanatory notes reinforce that fact, stating:

    ``The term `advertisement' is not defined and bears its natural meaning.''

That is a weakness and the Government need to think hard about it if the Bill is to be successful. With the lack of a clear definition of tobacco advertisement, it is not difficult to see that, as some forms of advertising are suppressed, other forms are likely to come forward. For example, is cigarette packaging a tobacco advertisement? It may not be now, but it could be in the future. We should think much more clearly about what a tobacco advertisement really is and what it means if we want the Bill to be a success.

Another weakness that my amendment is designed to tackle relates to clause 1(a), which defines a tobacco advertisement as one

    ``(a) whose purpose is to promote a tobacco product,''

One of the consequences of the Bill as drafted, is that it will catch specialist tobacco suppliers, who are not the cause of the sharp increase in tobacco consumption in this country. For example, it will catch cigar manufacturers. I am sure that no one imagines that youngsters will buy Havana cigars and chain smoke behind the bike sheds. The objective is to reduce the prevalence of smoking, but cigar smoking is not practical, manageable or financially viable for the group that is, as I think we all agree, the most vulnerable.

The Bill will have a harsh effect on specialist suppliers of tobacco. In many cases, they do not have shops but retail their products by mail order—we will deal with that later. The clause is wide ranging and the Committee must think long and hard about whether there is a great deal to be gained by putting cigar, snuff and pipe tobacco manufacturers out of business. These are not the products that are fuelling the sharp increase in tobacco smoking. I do not see the youth of today walking about with pipes full of tobacco, and have only seen snuff produced at a party for under-25s on one occasion. Furthermore, the clause has a dimension for small as well as big business that needs to be thought through carefully. I am sure that the Government's aim was principally to target cigarette manufacturers and the increasing preference for smoking cigarettes, but did they intend to hit the small business so hard?

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): Does the hon. Lady accept that the measure includes chewing tobacco, which has dangerous effects and causes mouth cancer?

Mrs. Spelman: Again, I challenge the hon. Member to prove that chewing tobacco is a popular cult among the youth of today. The real cachet for younger people is branded cigarettes. All the market research shows that that is what they want to buy and what they feel enhances the image of being cool and joining a peer group. I am not convinced that the chewing of tobacco has taken off as a major attraction among the youth of today. I do accept the health risk of chewed tobacco. It is a substantial problem in the developing world, which can be tackled with good health education programmes.

As drafted, the Bill would have a hard impact on a number of small businesses. There are not many small specialist tobacco suppliers. I was surprised how few there are. For example, there are only 350 suppliers of cigars in this country. In a nation of 58 million, it is not hard to see that a number of those firms rely heavily on being able to advertise their specialist product outside their immediate geographic area. Many of them, without shop outlets, rely on mail order for that purpose.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): May we assume that, as the hon. Lady endeavours to protect certain kinds of tobacco products, she believes fundamentally that the advertising of those products encourages people to purchase them? Furthermore, does she distinguish between the health effects of other products, such as pipe tobacco and cigars, and those of cigarettes?

Mrs. Spelman: There are two separate and important points there: the health dimension and whether an advertisement leads to a promotion and sale, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) during the preamble on the timetabling for the Bill. That is a commercial and advertising question. I do not profess to be an expert in that area—my brief is definitely within health. I feel more comfortable talking about the health aspect, but promotion and selling will come up in a later debate on one of my amendments.

Certainly, specialist manufacturers who would be caught by the clause rely on disseminating information about their product. There is an analogy with fine wines. If one is going to buy a fine wine as a connoisseur, because it is an expensive product, one will want to know in which year it was produced, about the harvest and where it came from. One needs to have information on a fine wine to decide whether it is worth spending that sort of money. At the gulping-wine end of the market, the consumer may be less concerned. The same is true of cigarettes. I would not imagine that the year a branded cigarette was produced or where it came from enters the head of a consumer of branded cigarettes. They are completely different markets.

My analogy is a fair one and it leads me to the health risk. A youth would not think of consuming several bottles of extremely expensive fine wine to get legless, which the youth of today seem to like to be on a Friday night. That youth would not contemplate becoming drunk on fine wine because of the expense involved and because the effect could be achieved far more simply and cheaply.

The hon. Lady's question concerned the health risk.I totally accept the impact of tobacco on health, but I am sure that she would agree that the youth of today would not smoke cigars behind the bike shed. An older, more discerning smoker would not chain smoke cigars for the same reason—it is not palatable or desirable. Therefore, consumption of specialist tobacco products tends to be low. I think that a distinction can be made. The fine wine and ordinary wine analogy is revealing in that respect.

I appeal to the Government to think hard about the matter. There are ways in which to improve a later clause to provide some scope for specialist tobacco manufacturers to continue in business. Amendment No. 6 tries to achieve that. It is designed to permit the specialist tobacco supplier to continue to put his or her name in a telephone directory—in the Yellow Pages. It is a common way in which, say, a cigar supplier can, under a small entry for tobacco products, make his name and number known.

Again, in practical terms, I cannot imagine young people grabbing the Yellow Pages to look up a local cigar supplier to meet their craving for nicotine. Therefore, it would seem reasonable to permit specialist tobacco suppliers to place their telephone number and contact details in a telephone directory. That is just one small practical suggestion. It is perfectly reasonable if one makes the distinction between a specialist tobacco product and the mass of cigarettes that is flooding into the country and fuelling consumption, which should be of great concern to all of us, particularly the Government, who have the power to do something about it.

The two amendments are designed to make the point that clause 1 is a catch-all clause that will hit the small specialist tobacconist hard. I am not convinced that hitting them will help the Government to deal with the problem that they have defined as the one that they want to tackle.

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon): The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) took the Government to task for not defining ``at risk'', saying that it would have its normal meaning. When I read the amendment, I suspended judgment until I had heard what she meant by ``specialist tobacco product''. I had no idea what she meant. I thought that my mind was going to be opened to a range of accessories to cigarettes, cigar and pipe smoking about which I knew nothing. I was astonished to discover that she seemed to be defining something as common as a cigar or pipe tobacco as a specialist tobacco product.

I had imagined that the hon. Lady was talking about something much more specialist than those two things, both of which are, to the best of my knowledge, available in every supermarket and therefore do not strike me as the least bit specialist; they are mainstream tobacco products. Banning the advertisement of cigarettes, but allowing advertising of cigars and pipe tobacco would almost make a mockery and absurdity of the Bill.

I am much more sympathetic to the hon. Lady's argument about the small specialist supplier who sells only tobacco and tobacco products. That seems more deserving of sympathy and consideration than her definition of a specialist product. The point about an entry in the telephone directory seems entirely reasonable. I hope that that would fall outwith the scope of the Bill anyway. Therefore, I am more sympathetic to the second amendment than to the first. However, it would be palpably absurd to ban cigarette advertising while allowing cigar advertising.


Mr. Ian Bruce: I apologise for mispronouncing your name earlier, Mr. Malins, but I normally know you as Humfrey. I shall speak more generally when we reach clause stand part. The amendments raise an anomaly. The hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey), the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, misunderstood what an advertisement is. I have here a photocopy from the Yellow Pages for central London, with a half column of specialist tobacconists. According to my definition, it is an advertisement. It may be a free advertisement, but when Yellow Pages gives someone an entry, it refers to it as a free advertisement, and then tries to sell a bigger advertisement. It is an advertisement, because if someone wants to find a specialist tobacconist, they look in Yellow Pages and find it.

I do not wholly go along with the amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden has tabled, because the issue is in fact much wider. If one looks in Yellow Pages, one can find supermarkets listed. Supermarkets are the main sellers of tobacco products. They advertise themselves as supermarkets and, according to the definition in the clause, by telling people to come and shop, they promote tobacco products. Unless the Government—[Interruption.] I am surprised at the reaction of colleagues. Instead of doing their correspondence, or whatever it is that they are doing, they should read what is in the Bill.

The Yellow Pages listing is an advertisement for someone who sells tobacco products. The vast majority of tobacco that is sold in my constituency goes through supermarkets. All supermarkets rightly make sure that their address, telephone number and location are in Yellow Pages. If one wants to take it to that extent, the Bill makes it illegal for purveyors of tobacco to advertise their presence, even by means of a free advertisement, let alone the full-page advertisements that one sees. That is why the Bill is so foolish in not attempting to define what an advertisement is. I hope that the Minister will tell the Committee what her definition of an advertisement is, because it is crucial.

I am wearing a tie today. I could not find a tie that bore the logo of a tobacco company; we are probably glad of that. My tie has the logo of an insurance company, but I suspect that many people wear cricketing ties that have been sponsored by various bodies. Are such ties an advertisement? I have here a very nice sailing jacket, which I shall describe, because I know that I cannot show something without describing it. As you will see, Mr. Malins, it is a Silk Cut jacket; it is in the Silk Cut colours of purple and yellow—

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