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Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Several Members hope to catch my eye. If contributions are brief, more may succeed.

8.43 pm

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton): I apologise for not being present during all the opening speeches. I was requested to be elsewhere. I also draw the House's attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests.

John Robertson: Which is?

Mr. Flook: As Labour Members want to know, I worked for a company that has since been taken over by an advertising company.

Mr. Connarty: Does it still pay you?

Mr. Flook: It might well do; that is in the register. More interestingly, I was a heavy smoker—up to 30 fags a day for 13 years—but I quit because of the damage that I know smoking does to the liver as opposed to just the lungs. My uncle, prior to his death, was a heavy smoker and a non-occasional drinker; people cannot be both. Being the son of a wine merchant, I thought it wise to do my bit to repay my father's generosity, so I decided to give up smoking a few years ago. I do not have the zealotry of the convert, however, even though the subject is extremely emotive. I was impressed by the strong emotions displayed by the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron).

I looked at all the information before the debate, and a number of figures have been bandied around. In particular, I received a briefing note from ASH, which means Action on Smoking and Health. At first glance, it makes strong arguments for the Bill, especially with reference to low-cost and effective health measures. Closer reading, however, reveals a number of hoary old chestnuts. Apparently, banning advertising would stop children being encouraged to smoke; it would persuade smokers to quit; where advertising bans have been introduced, they have led to a fall in consumption. The Government have said that, in their view, a ban would reduce consumption by 2.5 per cent., and that the voluntary restrictions have failed.

I am sorry to say that I am not sure we can trust the well-intentioned but poorly presented information provided by organisations such as ASH. ASH says that advertising encourages children to smoke, but a tough voluntary agreement has existed for some years, and it was peer pressure rather than the much flashier ads of the 1970s that forced me to take up smoking. I was allowed

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to smoke in the sixth form, for instance. I smoked Gauloises. I had a Saturday job, I could afford to buy cigarettes, and I got fed up with handing them out to others. Interestingly, they did not want to smoke Gauloises, and consequently I was the one who did not have to hand out the cigarettes.

We took up smoking to cock a snook at authority. Getting rid of advertising will not make the slightest difference in that regard. The smuggling of cheap cigarettes is more likely to make kids continue to smoke.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South): The hon. Gentleman may have been a heavy smoker, smoking 30 a day. I used to smoke 80 a day. If there is a risk that advertising will create just one smoker, would it not be useful to ban it in order to save that one life?

Mr. Flook: As I have said, ASH thinks that advertising encourages children to smoke. The cigarette advertising companies have said that they will not advertise to those children—[Interruption.] Let me put it another way. A voluntary agreement has been reached by Ministers. Why have they repeatedly refused to listen to the advertising companies and the tobacco manufacturers when they have approached them since 1997 asking them to toughen up their own voluntary restrictions?

Mr. Bailey: I worked in the advertising industry. Can the hon. Gentleman explain how an advertisement can be produced that appeals to those over 18 and not to those under 18?

Mr. Flook: I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is concentrating on the age of 18. As was said earlier, at the age of 16 it is possible to marry—to choose the person with whom you will live for the rest of your life. Should it not be possible for people to decide voluntarily at that age whether to smoke?

Labour Members often quote statistics, but one fact we have not heard is that it is possible to smoke until the age of 30, then give up and suffer no long-term health consequences. [Interruption.] Labour Members may not agree with that; I do not agree with the facts and figures that they have bandied about.

ASH says that where advertising has been banned, consumption has fallen. In Italy, it has continued to rise during the 20 years following a ban. In Norway, it has increased in line with the pre-ban trend. The situation in Canada is interesting. Between 1989 and 1995, when the supreme court kicked the ban out, consumption remained steady, just as it had been before. In this country, where there has been a voluntary agreement, consumption has declined faster than it has in any other country I know of.

Dr. Evan Harris: Does the hon. Gentleman's argument allow for the possibility that the pattern of consumption, whether it rises or falls, is a complex issue affected by many factors, and that the presence or absence of an advertising ban may reduce the rate of increase in consumption where it might otherwise have been greater, or increase the rate of reduction where it might otherwise have been less? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that

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several factors may be involved? According to evidence from reviews, an advertising ban would be at least a contributing factor.

Mr. Flook: Considering the time left to me and the fact that my hon. Friends and others wish to speak, perhaps we could continue that discussion elsewhere, probably over a cigar.

The adoption of Lord Clement-Jones's Bill reinforces the view of where the Government and, I am afraid, some of my hon. Friends are coming from. Individuals are never grown up enough in the eyes of some to be able to look after themselves. I find it unfortunate that the Bill will lead to increased censorship, enhance red tape and restrict freedom to make one's own decisions. It will not reduce smuggling, lessen smoking by children or lower total consumption.

8.50 pm

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): I am delighted to participate in the debate. Like many Conservative Members, I wish to register my own interest: when I was younger than 16, I was a smoker. To this day, I have never admitted it to my family. [Interruption.] I expect that they are not listening and watching this evening. My mother and father would not be very happy.

I have no idea why I took up smoking. I think it had more to do with the music that I listened to and the image I wished to identify with. I caught the tail end of the punk era. I was keen on ska music. As part of that overall image, smoking was de rigueur. I then became a new romantic. Smoking did not go with pastel pinks or pastel yellows. I took up smoking as a teenager and ended smoking while still a teenager. It was to do with my warped sense of fashion at that time.

We have rightly heard that smoking kills 120,000 people a year in this country. Everyone has tried to break the figure down, but to give it some relevance, during this debate, 80 people have died from smoking or a smoking-related illness in this country. To an extent, that puts the figure into perspective.

There has been a debate across the House about the role of advertising. I may be wrong, but I do not believe that the primary role of advertising tobacco products is to maintain existing smokers as smokers. Advertising does no harm in terms of maintaining them as smokers, but I do not think that the primary role of advertising is to keep smokers smoking or to increase their level of smoking. I believe that the primary role of advertising is to grow a new generation of smokers. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson) and others have said why: the tobacco industry kills 120,000 people a year. The role of any market is to find new customers. It kills 120,000 customers; it has to create some more. Advertising performs that role simply to feed the conveyor belt of addiction.

The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) made a number of points based on voodoo health. In response to his point about tough self-regulatory measures, like everyone, I hope, in the debate, I took time to read the self-regulatory measures that have been signed up to. I quote from those:

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Almost every advert that I have seen conjures up images of at least three of those. I have never seen an advert that has said, "Smoking this cigarette is dangerous, deadly, unnatural and antisocial." Not once have I seen an advert for a cigarette or tobacco product that describes what the product is or what it does to the person. Instead, advertising tries to tap into the vain, desperate desire for fashion, trends and coolness.

I am delighted that the Bill will ban cigarette coupons. People may say that smoking is a human frailty and human weakness, but I grew up in an environment where grown adults collected cigarette coupons in the same way that children collect football stickers. It was an encouragement to smoke more and collect more, at the end of which not only would the person's health be poorer but they had six cheap whisky glasses in return for product loyalty.

In response to the points made by the hon. Members for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) and for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), I am absolutely amazed by the cavalier attitude of the majority—but not all—of Conservative Members, who broadly divide into two categories. Some pursue reckless opposition for opposition's sake. Their bold rallying call is that they oppose the Bill because it might not work. They say that we should not do anything because it might not work, while proposing no alternative whatever. The others are more dangerous, ideological and libertarian. They think that the Bill is a fundamental curtailment of a basic adult freedom of choice that should not be limited in any circumstances. Taking that to its logical conclusion—and I do not support this—the Government should legalise all the drugs that are currently illegal. I am not aware that that is official Conservative party policy.

This ideological bunch of Conservatives talk about individual liberty. What individual liberty is being sacrificed by someone not having to read cigarette advertisements every time they open a fashion magazine or a newspaper? What basic human right is curtailed by that? It is not a basic human right to be forced to read cigarette adverts, and even if it was, I would happily sacrifice it to save the life of just one of the 80 smokers who will die during this debate.

The Tories are not representing the views of the people: the majority favour a ban. They are not even representing the views of smokers, 80 per cent. of whom would love to give up because they are hooked and they realise the damage that it is doing to them and their families. I do not want to be uncharitable, but most Conservative Members are not even representing their own constituents. Sadly, all too many are merely representing the vested interests of the tobacco industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) talked about the internet. We must be extremely careful about that. The audience for tobacco advertising on the internet is clearly a lower age group and the advertisers would like to penetrate that market. Unlike my hon. Friend, I am delighted that clause 7 undertakes to keep pace with technological changes. I hope that the companies concerned, the web designers and the internet service providers will note that. Clause 3 speaks about anyone in the chain, from commissioning to selling, being guilty of an offence. Clearly, internet companies would be included.

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We all accept that an advertising ban on its own will not solve the problem. Personally, I would favour compulsory licensing for any establishment that sells tobacco products. The licence would be revoked if there was proof of any sale of cigarettes to under-16s. Perhaps the Bill could be a little firmer in its provisions concerning the set-up of shops and the display of cigarettes so close to confectionery, where young people will be looking. I would like cigarettes to be further from the cash till, although there may be security issues, because their siting there encourages impulse buying.

I would like to see the supposed celebrities of this country break their silence on cigarettes and tobacco. For too long it has been perceived to be cool and acceptable to smoke and take other drugs. Until celebrities, be they actors or other entertainers such as singers or musicians—those whom the younger people in this nation respect—say loudly and clearly that it is not fashionable, desirable or cool to get involved in that deadly habit, we will face an uphill struggle.

I hope that it will be part of the overall package surrounding the Bill, and other health improvement measures, that the Government will be able to enter into a dialogue with all stakeholders and other interested parties to ensure that celebrities break what, for the vast majority of them, has been a shameful silence on this matter.

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