Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill

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Mr. David Taylor: Has my hon. Friend had the opportunity to read the report of the tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians? It notes that the real issue is the management of nicotine addiction. One would infer that the companies concerned are trying to establish nicotine addiction at an early age. In the most recent surveys, the data of which were compiled in 1998, as high a proportion of 15-year-olds as 30 per cent. regularly smokes.

4.45 pm

Mr. Barron: My hon. Friend is right. I do not want to go down that avenue now, although it may be relevant to new clause 2. The regulatory authority was requested by the Royal College of Physicians in that study. It is an excellent study, showing people how addictive nicotine is, how it is delivered in different ways to people in society and the effect of the delivery.

Let me return to the evidence taken by the Select Committee. It shows how the Committee chased round the houses and attempted to find out why advertising would affect only the 18 to 24 age group, and whether we could depend on the voluntary code to ensure that the same advertising did not affect people below the age of 18. Audrey Wise asked someone who was paid by a tobacco company to run its advertising how a distinction could be made under the voluntary code between someone who was under 18, or under 15, and an 18 to 24-year-old. She said:

    ``So you are supposed not to do it. What I am asking is how you carry out that remit, that is all.''

The witness replied:

    ``I do not quite understand your question. We are aiming at 18 to 24-year-olds.''

Audrey Wise went on:

    ``The question is how you engage aspirations in the first place and stay within the CAP''.

She was referring to the code of advertising practice. All these matters are examined under the voluntary code, which the Bill would abolish. She went on:

    ``I thought that adverts had not to be aspirational. How do you distinguish between the aspirations of the bottom end of your adult smokers and the young teenager? There must be something you do, some sorts of things you do or refrain from doing in order to keep within the CAP. I am just asking you to explain.''

The proceedings continued. The witness could not explain. Audrey Wise then said:

    ``What guides your judgement? ...You have rock, cult, bikes, cars as sorts of things.''

We have all seen the images used in tobacco advertising over the years by Rothmans and many others. She went on:

    ``Fourteen and 15-year-old males seem to me to be just as interested as 18-year-olds. How do your adverts differ?''

The whole matter shows how parliamentarians' expertise can be used to examine reports and to take evidence on them. After about three columns, Mr. Bainsfair eventually made an admission. He said:

    ``Perhaps if I say that it is common sense that there is going to be an overlap. Some 15-year-olds are going to be more sophisticated than others. It is impossible to say that something which appeals to an 18-year-old will not appeal to a 15-year-old. If that is what you are getting at, obviously you are right.''

That has been the argument of people concerned about the health of young people and cigarettes for decades. It is nonsense to claim that certain advertising is for a set age group, whether or not it includes motorbikes. I do not have a problem with new clause 1 being added to the Bill, but we will hear what the Minister has to say about it. On new clause 1(a), it will be interesting to monitor the prevalence of smoking in the 11 to 15 age group. The vast majority of people start smoking between the ages of 11 and 15. It will be interesting to see what happens when advertising that is supposedly not aimed at them is taken out of our culture.

Mrs. Spelman: I do not think that we are going to hear from the Minister. The discussions suggest that, because of the forthcoming Division in the House, my new clause will have to be decided quickly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that there will be an opportunity to consider his new clause on Report. The matters are important and I interrupt only to remind him that there may not be time for us to hear the Government's reply.

Mr. Barron: I realise that, if I were to sit down now, I could table new clause 2 again on Report. As I would be interested to hear the Minister talk about the new clause, I will do just that.

Yvette Cooper: As this is probably the last time that I will speak in this Committee, may I thank you, Mrs. Adams and, through you, Mr. Malins for your chairmanship of the Committee? It has been good humoured and our discussions have progressed well.

Mrs. Spelman: As there may be no other opportunity to intervene, I want to thank you, Mrs. Adams and, through you, Mr. Malins for the courteous way in which you have regulated our proceedings. The Committee has also conducted itself courteously most of the time.

Yvette Cooper: I welcome the fact that, although the Opposition voted against Second Reading, they have tabled many constructive amendments and accepted many of the principles behind the Bill. That was helpful to our discussions.

I shall confine my comments to new clause 1, because I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley does not intend to press new clause 2 now.

I have considerable sympathy with the aims of new clause 1. It is essential to have effective independent evaluation of the impact of the advertising ban and that information must be publicly available. The issue of market share is interesting, but the critical issue concerns the prevalence of smoking in the United Kingdom.

We are keen to have proper and effective evaluation of the legislation, but it would be a mistake to set out in the Bill the specific requirements for research. For example, it is not clear that the under-18 age group is the right one. We may want to consider the under-16s and the 16 to 19 age group.

Subsection (2) of the new clause states that there should be an annual report, but if that requirement were in the Bill, it might become burdensome after 10 years; we might have conclusive results during that period. We need flexibility not simply to respond to the ban and to ensure that the right sort of research is taking place, but to enable us to respond to new needs for research in other areas as they arise.

I confirm that issues concerning research and evaluation and the work of the Health Development Agency will be considered by the Department. It is important to maintain flexibility in the way in which research is commissioned, but our intention is to ensure that there is proper public evaluation of the impact of the Bill. We are keen to see the Bill on the statute book and to evaluate its effect in the light of the considerable health consequences of smoking and the impact of advertising not only on new smokers, but on those who want to give up. Seventy per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up smoking. It is an important part of our health policy to provide support and encouragement for those who want to give up and to break the addiction to a deadly product.

I ask the Committee to reject new clause 1 and look forward to further consideration of the Bill on Report.

Mrs. Spelman: The Minister's comments are encouraging and I am pleased that the Government want to evaluate the Bill in a similar way to that suggested in the new clause. I may return to the matter on Report with some modifications in line with the objectives that we want to achieve.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: Order. I thank the Committee for behaving so well. I am disappointed that we did not have a vote, because I was interested to see if Little Ben would be allowed to vote. I thank hon. Members for their attendance and kind words.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at six minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Chairman)
Barron, Mr.
Bruce, Mr. Ian
Cooper, Yvette
Eagle, Maria
Gidley, Sandra
Harvey, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
McFall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Ross, Mr. Ernie
Spelman, Mrs.
Taylor, Mr. David

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Prepared 8 February 2001