Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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The Chairman: Order. I am listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman, but we are in danger of straying into the clause stand part debate. There will be a clause stand part debate, as long as this debate is not too prolonged. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stay with the amendments.

Mr. Bruce: I was led astray by the reaction of Labour Members, who did not seem to think that an entry in a telephone directory was an advertisement. The Yellow Pages is an advertising product, and that is the difficulty. You are right, Mr. Malins, that the definition of an advertisement comes under the clause stand part debate.

I have read the code, which the tobacco industry has kept to carefully. I believe that it does a better job, and the Committee deserves to hear from the Minister why she thinks that the amendments, which would at least allow tobacco specialists to be found in the Yellow Pages, should not be accepted. If someone says, ``I know that there is a tobacconist down on the high street. I am after something quite specialist. I want to know its telephone number'', they will not be allowed to obtain that information, despite the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1998, unless the amendments are accepted.

Mr. Barron: The hon. Member for Meriden said that the increase in smoking —although it was disputed on Second Reading, and still is now—had nothing to do with advertising, but was caused by tobacco smuggling. I do not want to pre-empt the DTI investigation into whether British American Tobacco is conscious of the worldwide smuggling that takes place, but it is well documented that tobacco companies advertise ferociously in countries such as China, which place heavy restrictions on imports of tobacco—I believe that only 7 or 9 per. cent of tobacco is imported into China. The legitimate trade that the tobacco companies do with China clearly does not justify their advertising costs, but they know that there is a great deal of illegitimate trade and they want their product to benefit. Whether the trade is legitimate or illegitimate, they make money from it, so they advertise in such countries. The hon. Member for Meriden will have to take my word for it. If she wants evidence, I will have to bring it from my office.

The hon. Lady is not right in her analysis that tobacco companies do not promote smoking simply because we have a lot of smuggled tobacco in this country. There is good evidence to suggest that they promote tobacco, whether it is legitimately or illegitimately imported, and we must recognise that.

What does the hon. Member for Meriden mean by ``a specialist tobacco product''? When is a cigar not a cigar? Is a cigar that is promoted in all supermarkets, millions of which are smoked on a regular basis each day, the same as one that is affordable only to millionaires who are prepared to pay £50 for a cigar that was grown in a particular year? I did not know previously that there was such a thing as vintage cigars. When is a tobacco product not a specialist tobacco product? Unless we have good answers to those questions, the amendment will open the floodgates. Someone could argue that their particular brand of cigarettes was specialist for reason X and Y, and ask for the right to advertise it. That would wholly defeat the essence of the Bill so the hon. Lady will have to come along with a better argument.

Mr. Bruce: Clearly the hon. Gentleman is a keen supporter of the Bill. Indeed, I note from the record from 1987 that he supported the motion that I sponsored. Specialist tobacco retailers are highlighted in the Bill to allow them to do things that the ordinary supermarket is not allowed to do. Is he saying that he will be voting against that particular clause? Does he accept that small specialist retail tobacconists are a special case?

Mr. Barron: As has been said, they are afforded special protection for advertising themselves on the products that they sell on the premises. My hon. Friend the Minister will want to know that I support that, but we are confusing specialist tobacco retailers with specialist tobacco products. I ask the hon. Member for Meriden to define exactly what she means. Her interpretation could drive a coach and horses through the Bill. A person could argue that, even though millions of their brand of cigarette were smoked every day, their brand was specialist because all the people who bought them were special people.

Mrs. Spelman: I am not trying to be combative about this; I am trying to get to a particular problem. I weighed up the option of crafting the amendment in another way and excluding unbranded products, but I decided that that would widen the net too much.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the real problem—what is fuelling the rapid increase in consumption—is the smuggling of branded, recognised marques of cigarettes? My amendments may well have their imperfections, but the Bill will hit the specialist producer very hard indeed. I am asking the Government to think carefully whether there are ways in which we could help in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman also made a point about specialists and their retail outlets. I remind him that some of them sell by mail order; they do not have shops.

Mr. Barron: The Bill provides protection for their customers, and I am sure that we will speak about that at some stage. It is not a blanket provision whereby retailers can advertise in Yellow Pages or anywhere else. Known customers will request special information from such retailers. That seems eminently sensible, but I do not agree with the hon. Lady's amendment.

Yvette Cooper: Hon. Members have raised points about the meaning of ``tobacco advertisement'', and about smuggling and other issues, which I will return to in the clause stand part debate. I want to confine my remarks at this stage to amendments Nos. 1 and 6.

The Government cannot accept either amendment No. 1 or amendment No. 6, but for very different reasons, so I will take each in turn. Amendment No. 1 would allow advertisements of specialist tobacco products, whether on billboards, through sports sponsorship, in magazines, on the internet or anywhere else. It does not define what a specialist tobacco product is. The clause defines a tobacco product as one

    consisting wholly or partly of tobacco and intended to be smoked, sniffed, sucked or chewed.

That is a pretty comprehensive definition.

Clause 6(2) defines a specialist tobacconist as a shop selling

    cigars, snuff, pipe tobacco and smoking accessories.

I assume that the intention behind the amendment is to permit advertisements of cigars, snuff, pipe tobacco and smoking accessories. Yet that is not precisely what the amendment does. It does not set out definitively whether hand rolling tobacco, gutkha or paan would be regarded as specialist tobacco products. The scope of the amendment is extremely wide, but the health risks from all of those products are considerable.

Some chewing tobacco and other products that could be covered by the amendment carry considerable risk. Such products are used to a great extent in certain communities, particularly Asian communities, and they could still be regarded as specialist tobacco products. The Government would be extremely concerned about any amendment that permitted advertisements of gutkha and chewing tobacco products.

The hon. Member for Meriden raised doubts as to whether gutkha or any other such products were chewed or used by children or young people. Specialists have given the Department evidence—both health professionals and community representatives—that the incidence of the use of gutkha, in particular, is high among young people and that it has become a fashionable product. We are worried about the consumption of oral tobacco by young people given the consequences that it can have: it can lead to oral cancers. We would, therefore, be troubled to see such a measure included in the Bill. It would undermine its entire purpose and intention, which is to prevent harm to children and young people.

11.15am

I accept that cigars and pipe tobacco are less harmful than cigarettes, mainly because the people who smoke those products tend not to inhale. Some studies show that the overall risk of premature death for cigarette smokers is 70 per cent. higher than for non-smokers, but that, for pipe and cigar smokers, it only up to 10 per cent. higher. However, those products still pose considerable risks to health. It has been suggested that many pipe and cigar smokers formerly smoked cigarettes and may have transferred their inhalation habits, which makes the practice far more dangerous and poses a far greater risk to public health. A European study found that the risk of lung cancer was nine times higher for cigar smokers than for non-smokers. Pipe and cigar smokers develop cancer of the larynx at several times the rate of non-smokers and experience higher mortality from bronchitis and emphysema.

Voluntary agreements and codes of practice have tended to make distinctions between cigarette and hand rolling tobacco, and cigars and pipe tobacco. Even so, the need to regulate the advertising of the latter has long been recognised. There have been no television advertisements for cigars and pipe tobacco since 1991—such advertisements are prohibited under the independent television code of advertising standards and practice. The Radio Authority has recently launched a consultation document with a view to banning advertisements for cigar and pipe tobacco, in line with the Bill.Indeed, the voluntary agreement reached in December 1994 between the previous Government and the tobacco trade prescribed health warnings for press and billboard advertisements for cigars and pipe tobacco. There are clear links between pipe and cigar tobacco and health. That is why it is right that they be broadly included within the scope of the Bill.

We recognise that specialist tobacco products tend mainly to appeal to mature smokers and that a number of businesses specialise in the sale of such products. Clause 6 recognises that they are often small businesses and allows them to advertise their products within their shop.

 
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