Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Barron: The hon. Gentleman makes a good case for the Bill because he has exposed what the tobacco companies have done and how they have promoted their products over the years. I liked his comment that their promotion budgets would not go away. He said that it we stopped them spending their money on what we now call tobacco advertising, the money would go elsewhere. That is exactly right. When we banned the advertising of cigarettes on television in 1965 by means of the voluntary code, the money went into promotion of sports such as Formula 1 and Benson and Hedges cricket, so that companies could still get their brand names into millions of homes via television. It is clear that their promotion budgets will move into other activities. That is why we need a comprehensive Bill that will stop that happening. Voluntary agreements have squeezed some types of advertising and as a result we have seen an increase in the promotion of tobacco products in ways that are not covered by the voluntary code.

I was around when the voluntary codes were negotiated in 1994. I was promoting a private Member's Bill in the House at the time that had some influence. I found that out a year or so later when I obtained some leaked Cabinet documents. Anyone with an interest in tobacco promotion and public health would have to conclude that agreeing not to place billboards within 200 m of schools, but placing them within 210 m, makes a mockery of the protection of public health.

It has been well documented that much tobacco advertising, certainly on bill posters, is targeted at 11 to 15-year-olds. That is when people start smoking—when they cannot legally buy the product. Tobacco companies know that quite well. During the winter of 1993, when I was promoting that private Member's Bill, Regal withdrew the Reg campaign, which used school grounds and was aimed at young children. The tobacco companies denied that they withdrew the campaign because of the Bill, but they decided to take the Reg campaign off their bill posters. It was quite clear what the tobacco companies had been up to over many years.

On advertising and billboards, they do not have to have Silk Cut with a big piece of purple silk and a pair of scissors going through it, but inquiring minds will find out or want to know what it means. An inquiring mind is normally the younger mind in our society and it is no coincidence that the most heavily advertised brands of cigarettes are those that are smoked by young people who are not old enough to buy them legally. Studies have been carried out and advertising does work—it encourages people to get the habit of smoking.

Finally, the hon. Member for South Dorset asked about the jobs of people who work in the tobacco industry in Southampton—or anywhere else. The vast majority of people who work in tobacco production, are working for foreign markets and imports. We should recognise that. The Bill is purely concerned with domestic advertising and the promotion of cigarettes in this country. It does not affect the market in the developing world, where there has been a big increase—

Mr. Ian Bruce: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has been contacted by the workers in those factories. Is that what they have told him?

Mr. Barron: The workers contact us regularly about how all tobacco issues will affect them. This legislation concerns domestic politics. It is about us as a member state of the European Union putting into effect legislation that was denied us through the European Commission and the European courts last year. I mentioned the European courts earlier. They believe that specific tobacco advertising issues are state issues—they are peculiar to each member state. As a consequence, the tobacco industry was successful in stopping the European directive last year. That is the truth of the matter. This legislation will introduce in this country controls on the advertising and promotion of cigarettes. The Bill will not affect the majority of production workers in the industry in this country.

Mrs. Spelman: I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's theory about the benefits of us going it alone by pursuing the objectives of a European directive that, at this stage, has been annulled in the European courts. Does he accept that doing so is likely to place some of our companies at a competitive disadvantage? As a general principle, it is not a good idea to go it alone on legislation in a single market—in advance of the rest of the pack. There are all the costs of being the first to attempt something. One makes all the mistakes and does all the running. It is not always the best way to go about one's business.

Mr. Barron: On the evidence of the report from Dr. Clive Smee and what was found in the four countries that he studied many years ago on behalf of the Department of Health, ``going it alone'' or not, we are not reinventing the wheel; we are implementing legislation to ban advertising and promotion, which has been found to reduce tobacco consumption in countries where it has taken place. The hon. Lady is shaking her head. I understand that, like her hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox)—I mentioned this on Second Reading—she was sent in December four different reports by the charity Action on Smoking and Health, with which I have a close relationship, as I have admitted in previous debates. Has she read those reports from the World Bank and others? Does she believe that their forecast as to the likely effect that this legislation will have on tobacco consumption in the United Kingdom is true, or not?

Mrs. Spelman: The hon. Gentleman is asking me a specific question. Of course I have read the reports, but the point is that the Smee report was undertaken before such a significant level of smuggling had arisen and that that will considerably affect the capacity of this Bill to succeed in its aim.

Mr. Barron: The hon. Lady is, presumably, trying to say that advertising has nothing to do with the consumption of legally bought cigarettes, or indeed, of illegal cigarettes. We are discussing the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. Whether they are obtained legally or illegally is a red herring. We are trying to prevent people from starting to smoke, no matter how they get the cigarettes. Under the circumstances, we should concentrate on the issues in the Bill. We should not keep harping on consumption and where people get cigarettes.

We all recognise that many young, under-age people are likely to be buying smuggled cigarettes. That is an unhealthy situation. It is nothing to do with the Bill; it is a law and order issue. The fact that we have passed laws that some people break does not mean that we should not pass laws. I do not know where we would be as a society if we ever accepted that.

Finally, I have some questions on clause 1, which defines a tobacco product as opposed to a tobacco brand. Has the Department studied the legal definition of a tobacco product and a tobacco brand? Have the lawyers decided that the clause is complete without using the words ``tobacco brand''. I would like to know why those words are not in the clause because, as has been said, much of the advertising now is for brands and not necessarily for a specific product.

12.00 pm

What worries me—especially when we consider the potential impact of the clause on later clauses, in particular clause 10, on brand stretching—is that if brands are not effectively covered in this clause, we will be opening the door for promotion budgets to go elsewhere, as the hon. Member for South Dorset said. Brand stretching could be a major issue and I want the Bill to cover it, through regulations under clause 10.

I have said this before, but it is important that we understand what the tobacco companies have done when partial bans on promotion and advertising have been introduced. That happened in Italy many years ago—it was generally rumoured to be a protectionist measure, on behalf of the Italian tobacco production market. Italy imposed an advertising ban and so forth, but allowed television advertisements for Formula 1 racing helmets that carried brand logos on the side. From my few visits to Italy, wearing a Formula 1 racing helmet emblazoned with a tobacco brand does not appear to be a part of Italian culture. At that time, while in theory there was a ban, a brand logo on another product was being advertising on national television.

Will my hon. Friend the Minister say whether the definition of ``tobacco product'' in the Bill would stretch to a tobacco brand as well, so that we do not end up with the advertising of brands—as happens now—as opposed to the tobacco product?

Yvette Cooper: We have had an extensive debate on clause 1, which is clearly important to the rest of the Bill. It sets out what we mean by ``tobacco advertisement'' and ``tobacco product''. Hon. Members have raised concerns about definitions of tobacco advertisements, so I will deal with that issue first.

The word carries its natural meaning, as people understand it. It is usual for words to bear their natural meaning in legislation and to seek to provide a narrow definition risks creating loopholes. The principle of the Bill is to draw up a broad definition and then provide defences or exemptions as appropriate. Those are the defences and exemptions that we will come to in Committee and which we will be able to discuss in detail.

The mischief at which this Bill is aimed is clear—the promotion of tobacco products to the public, to encourage people to buy, smoke or chew them, as appropriate. It is not the aim of the legislation to provide a comprehensive list of every detailed type of advertisement that might be possible. It would be a mistake to rule things out by omission, particularly given the arguments of the hon. Member for South Dorset about the ingenuity of the tobacco industry in finding different ways to promote its product. We are clear that all tobacco advertising—promoting tobacco products to the public—should be covered under the Bill.

I do not want to deal with particular examples raised in much detail. However, the Hon. Member for Meriden asked about an advertisement emblazoned on a van. If its purpose or effect is to promote a tobacco product, whether it is on a van, a billboard or anything else, it is covered by the Bill.

Companies promoting their business by printing their name on a letterhead that is used for individual communications is a completely different matter. That is not the mischief at which the Bill is aimed. As hon. Members will know, packaging and labelling have been discussed at European level as part of the current European directive. The pack itself is not an advertisement, although packs may be displayed in such a way as to constitute advertisements.

Nothing in the Bill prevents adults from getting information about the tobacco products that they are interested in. What it ends is the tobacco companies' right to use their considerable profits to bombard children or adult smokers and non-smokers with seductive messages to persuade them to smoke. The Bill does not affect artistic licence. There is nothing in the Bill to stop people from smoking on stage or on film, or to stop journalists from writing about tobacco, as long as they have not been paid by the tobacco companies to do so.

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