Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. Barron: I would like to try to answer the points that the hon. Member for South Dorset has just made about the dictionary definition of sponsorship. First, both he and the hon. Member for Meriden have said on this clause, as on many others, that there is a loophole. The hon. Member for South Dorset said that there was a complication that the Government did not perhaps intend. Given that the Conservatives declined to give the Bill a Second Reading, they should be quite happy with the Bill as presently constructed, because it would be ineffective if we believed what they say.

On sponsorship, does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that the Bill is intended to stop sponsorship that relates to tobacco products? I would like turn to Silk Cut. The hon. Member for South Dorset said that there are no names on Silk Cut advertisements, just a large silk cloth on a stage, with a tear in it, and that we all know what that means. Let me refer again to the appendices in the Health Committee report on defining sponsorship of tobacco products. The report considered the links between sponsorship and advertising. As I said earlier, those links can become very blurred when we look around the issue. It is very difficult to define that in a Bill without making it a one-clause Bill that says, ``X promotes, advertises or sponsors tobacco products directly or indirectly''. Definition is very difficult.

Let me turn to how sponsorship is designed to direct the attitudes of young people, perhaps not necessarily toward a single product, but towards a brand of tobacco products. Some evidence in the Select Committee report was submitted by a company called M & C Saatchi, with which I think most of us are familiar. It related to what Silk Cut did in night clubs in the UK—the Leadmill in Sheffield was one such venue—a few years ago, and to what was being done in universities up and down the UK. The evidence relates to what I think was called the Silk Cut renaissance tour, and I want to quote from a brief published on 7 May 1996 on the sponsorship of those events. It said:

    ``Silk Cut is actually a cool brand to be seen smoking because it is enabling more Renaissance club nights... Therefore the sponsorship advertising will need to communicate the relationship between Silk Cut and Renaissance by featuring the extensive list of gigs and by appealing to their self-image to give them some defensive ammunition.''

That is interesting, because it shows that tobacco companies target young people.

Young people, by their nature, are not easily taken for a ride. They do not easily latch on to things. The hon. Member for South Dorset mentioned billposter sites that do not even tell one what brand they refer to; but an image is shown, and an inquiring mind can work out what it is. Inquiring minds are likely to be younger rather than older.

Let me quote further from M & C Saatchi's evidence:

    ``Urban Venturers: Aged between 18-30, students/graduates just out of university, short of money but spend all they have on good nights out. They are very advertising literate, and consequently very wary of big brands latching on to aspects of their lifestyle and exploiting them. To this end Silk Cut needs to complement the Renaissance imagery in an intriguing and stylish way.''

That shows how companies sponsor events. They do not put everything up front, but use images to promote their products without actually saying, ``Please smoke Silk Cut cigarettes; you are of an age when you ought to be doing that.'' At some events, free products are given out as well, so it is not always the case that there is no direct link with the product that the companies are promoting. That is just one case in which the sponsorship was directed at young people at gigs and events, and where that sponsorship complemented the advertising and vice versa.

The hon. Member for South Dorset talked about his windjammer—or whatever it was.

Mr. Bruce: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Barron: No. I will finish what I am saying and then the hon. Gentleman can get to his feet. Silk Cut sponsored a boat for the Whitbread yacht race, which had a Silk Cut emblem on it, and I can quote from a document that advertisers used, which states:

    ``Silk Cut is sponsoring a boat in the Whitbread yacht race and, therefore, is actually quite a masculine, adventurous brand.''

Again, that document refers to the promotion of the brand to people who watch racing. I do not think that racing is watched by young people in particular, but I am not sure. My constituency could not be further from the sea. We have some country parks with water sports, but there is not much in the way of Whitbread yacht racing in my area.

Let me turn to the Saatchi brief of 1996, which came to light during the investigations. It was headed ``Why we are advertising'' and said:

    ``Silk Cut are sponsoring a boat, captained by Laurie Smith, in the next Whitbread Round the World yacht race. In order to get maximum publicity from this event they want to place `announcement' ads in all national newspapers that run editorial on the race—to appear next to, or near, the editorial.''

Again, we can see how sponsorship of an event can be promoted far more widely than the windjammer or the name on the side of a yacht. Events are promoted right into our national media so that Silk Cut can be linked with yacht racing. I do not know which newspapers have editorials on yacht racing—perhaps quite a few in the constituency of the hon. Member for South Dorset, but very few in mine. That is how sponsorship is used to advertise and promote a product.

5.45 pm

Mr. Bruce: The hon. Gentleman quotes some of the things that I said, but he has completely missed the point. I told the Committee that the voluntary agreement that Silk Cut had was in my view easier to police, because the company was policing itself.. Under the voluntary agreement, it was easier to keep that brand name off the television screens and to ensure that Silk Cut jackets were not available to the television cameras either.

I do not dispute the fact that sponsorship by tobacco companies is intended to promote cigarettes. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully to my previous speech, he would know that we were trying to achieve exactly the same type of prohibitions on advertising as on sponsorship. We should not get involved in a confusing discussion about the difference between the two, which again provides enormous loopholes.

Mr. Barron: I did not want to misunderstand the hon. Gentleman. I think that I know what he is saying now. Silk Cut was probably much better at screening as regards sponsorship and the national media than other companies have been.

I take the hon. Gentleman back to the first sitting, when he said:

    ``The great thing about a voluntary agreement, is that when one tobacco manufacturer finds a way round the agreement and decides to go off in a different direction, the Minister can pick up the phone, talk to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association and say that what the manufacturer is doing is harmful and the Government are worried.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 30 January 2001; c. 20.]

I would much rather have the agreement in statute, which is what the Committee is about, so that a Minister does not have to pick up the phone when people breach codes that they have agreed in principle to stick to. That situation has gone on for many years, and it is about time that it ended, which is what the Bill is about.

My final point is also about the connection between sponsorship and advertising and/or promotion. When the Health Committee took evidence last year on the tobacco industry and the health risks of smoking, the advertising agency CDP—which is one of the top five advertisers in the country—submitted a memo dated 20 January 1998 from Barry Jenner to Rupert Pyrah. It talked about what had happened the night before, when Formula 1 racing cars had appeared on the news because a new racing car was being promoted. The small faxed memo says:


    As I'm sure you are aware there was excellent coverage of the new Jordan car last night on both the Nine O'Clock News and the News at Ten. The respective All Men TVRs—

that must be industry jargon—

    for the bulletins were 11.8 and 14.4.''

I assume that that refers to the seconds during which the images were on the national news on our television screens. The memo goes on to say:

    ``If we assume that the coverage equated to 60''—

again, I think that that relates to the exposure time on television, with which I am not familiar; the hon. Gentleman can tell me about it in a few minutes—

    commercial on each station, I've estimated the equivalent advertising value to be £185,000. When the value of additional news spots on Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky are added in, I expect the figure would exceed £250,000.

    Not bad to start off with!''

That is a classic example. Sponsorship in the form of emblems and names on Formula 1 cars takes place not only when we are watching a Formula 1 race, but even when Formula 1 cars are launched and are in our national media. They are on the news. ``News at Ten'' does not exist any more—[Hon. Members: ``It is back'']. I do not have the precise ratings for ``News at Ten'' or the ``Nine O'Clock News'', but they are high. Buying time in them gives real added value, particularly on the BBC, which does not have adverts. We have clear evidence that the advertising agencies promoting such sponsorship know exactly how to get exposure for tobacco products.

The growth in tobacco sponsorship in Britain, particularly in sports, took off when we decided, many years ago, to stop advertising cigarettes on national television channels. Sport became the recipient of that sponsorship, whether it was a case of Benson and Hedges cricket or Formula 1 racing. That was another way of getting tobacco promoted in our national media. The Wilson Government, which came to office in 1964, introduced a voluntary code, but it soon became clear that people were getting round it. Companies decided that they had to accept the ban on television advertising, but looked for ways round it, as the hon. Member for South Dorset said at our first sitting. It is in the nature of tobacco companies to do whatever they can to keep their products in our minds.

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Prepared 6 January 2001