Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mrs. Spelman: Is it true that in 1998 the tobacco manufacturers approached the Government, offering to go further with their voluntary code on advertising, and that they received no response from the Department of Health because it anticipated that the European directive would succeed? Was it not an omission by the Government to fail to acknowledge that tobacco manufacturers were willing to go further in self-policing and applying their own bans? Should the Government not have met with them to have explored how much further they were prepared to go?

Yvette Cooper: No, I do not think so. Right from the beginning—indeed in our election manifesto—we made it clear that our aim was to ban tobacco advertising. We do not think that the voluntary regimes have been successful. They have not gone anywhere near far enough. For example, through the voluntary agreement, tobacco advertising outside schools has been banned, but it is not considered important to ban tobacco advertising outside libraries or swimming pools. That makes a clear mockery of the very concept of voluntary agreements. The tobacco industry fought the ban on tobacco advertising at every stage when it was taken through Europe. It clearly wants to sustain its advertising. That is fine, but we do not intend to allow it to sustain its advertising, and that is why we are introducing the Bill.

I do not doubt for a moment that the tobacco industry will try to find other ways to promote its products. We have introduced a Bill that is broad in scope but then sets out exemptions to anticipate as many issues as possible. We also need to recognise that, by introducing this Bill, we are banning the forms of tobacco promotion that the tobacco companies currently choose because they know that they are the most lucrative and effective. That is why we believe that the advertising and promotion ban will be effective and will make a difference to levels of consumption.

Mr. Ian Bruce: The Minister has been most generous in giving way. My questions relate to what happens when this Bill becomes law, assuming that it is passed. Will the voluntary restraints simply disappear? Will the Government no longer try to police those? We all know that the most powerful advertising medium is television. Tobacco advertising has been off television for a long time. Is the Minister sure that a music programme designed for children that contains lots of tobacco promotion and is beamed in to people's televisions via satellite from anywhere in the world, even from another European country, is covered by the Bill? My understanding is that what is legal to beam up in another country is legal to be beamed down in another. Is the Minister clear on this point? Has she received legal advice, or is she about to open a floodgate?

Yvette Cooper: The scope of the Bill covers tobacco sponsorship of artistic and music events.

The Broadcasting Act 1996 covers existing television regulations, and this Bill refers to that, so we can discuss the relationship between this Bill, the Broadcasting Act, and the points that the hon. Gentleman raises later.

I shall refer briefly to the final issues on the comprehensive definition of tobacco.

Mrs. Spelman: The Minister used the word ``effectiveness''. I wish to seek clarification on the orders of scale. She said that a mockery was made of the voluntary coding and I say that it was more effective than what the Government intend to introduce.

Surely, in order of magnitude, a 40 per cent. reduction in smoking over 15 out of the 18 years that the Conservatives were in government compares favourably with the fact that the Government have now set a target, through the Bill, for reducing smoking prevalence by 2.5 per cent., despite the fact that, in the interim, there has been a rise of 6 per cent. We need to clarify our orders of magnitude, if we are to discuss the effectiveness of different instruments.

Yvette Cooper: It is true that the level of prevalence is affected by many different factors, including access to support when people want to give up smoking, tobacco advertising and cultural factors.

Smoking prevalence dropped from 1948 for many years, until 1994, when it started to rise. Smoking among young people has been rising since 1992. The hon. Lady is right to say that there are a series of things that we need to do to tackle smoking, and I am a strong supporter of providing expanded cessation support for those who want to give up smoking —whether it be through nicotine replacement therapy or other kinds of support.

When 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up, one way to reduce smoking is to help more people to give up. Banning tobacco adverting can help smokers who want to give up because it will ensure that they are not bombarded by information about new tobacco products or by communications from the tobacco industry. Equally, a ban helps to reduce the uptake among young people in the first place, given that the brands most heavily smoked by children are those that are most heavily advertised.

It is right that the Bill includes a comprehensive definition of tobacco products, and for very good reason. Given the health risks involved, this Bill is the right way forward, and we will have further discussion on many of the issues raised today. This is just the first of extensive and detailed debates, but it is clearly right that clause 1 should define what an advertisement is and the nature of tobacco products.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mrs. McGuire.]

        Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes past Twelve o'clock till Thursday 1 February at Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Malins, Mr. Humfrey (Chairman)
Barron, Mr.
Bruce, Mr. Ian
Cooper, Yvette
Eagle, Maria
Gidley, Sandra
Harvey, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
McFall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
Robertson, John
Ross, Mr. Ernie
Ruddock, Joan
Spelman, Mrs.

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