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Dr. Evan Harris: I must tell the Minister that I do not feel chastened by her remarks, because they still reflect some complacency on an issue that she understands is very important. Although the Government have done well, they could have done more by making the therapies available throughout the country to all smokers, not just in a few selected areas.
Many Opposition Members seemed to suggest that smoking prevalence had increased in the past few years, whether because of smuggling or something else. That is simply not true. Smoking prevalence fell among adults from 1948 to 1994, and then stopped falling. It then increased until 1996 and has fallen again since then, to 27 per cent. Among under-16s, it increased from 1988 to 1996, from 8 to 13 per cent., and last year it was down to 10 per cent. again. Among 16 to 19-year-olds, it increased from 27 to 31 per cent. between 1992 and 1998the very period in which the Conservatives were trumpeting their voluntary restrictions on advertisingwhile the latest figures for 2000 show it dropping again, to 29 per cent. Even among 15-year-old girlsmany hon. Members spoke about young girlsit rose from 1988 to 1996, but has fallen since then, from 33 per cent. in 1996 to 25 per cent. last year.
It is right to say that smoking rates are still too high, but 70 per cent. of smokers say that they want to give up. We think that those rates should come down, but that is why we disagree with the Opposition's view that voluntary agreements are sufficient. We need this ad ban and we need further support for people who want to give up smoking.
Dr. Fox: As the Minister says, over a long period we achieved great reductions in tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence rates37 per cent. and 40 per cent. respectively. Of the three strands of policyhealth education, price mechanism and restriction of advertisingwhich contributed in what proportion to that reduction?
Dr. Fox: The Minister's argument is very much in line with the points that we made. However, the Secretary of State said earlier that the advertising ban was not only the most important factor in reducing prevalence, but that it will be the "core" of anti-smoking policy. There can be only one core.
Yvette Cooper: My right hon. Friend made it clear that this is one part of an important strategy. The Government have done more than any Government in this country's history to provide support for smokers who want to give up, which plays a vital part in bringing smoking rates down.
The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) tried to persuade us that he had significant legal and technical objections to the Billfirst, that it was not comprehensive enough to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998. If he can identify a loophole that we have missed, I assure him that we will strive hard to close it in Committee, to ensure that the Bill is as comprehensive as he would like.
His second concern, voiced by other hon. Members, was that the Bill is notifiable. Our view remains that it is not notifiable. We have notified it without prejudice, but that is no reason not to continue to legislate. Other countries have done that, and so shall we.
Several hon. Members mentioned the common agricultural policy regime. We strongly disapprove of tobacco subsidiesa view that is shared on both sides of the Houseand we shall continue to argue against them and to oppose them whenever we have the opportunity.
Some hon. Members referred to sponsorship. The Bill sets out the policy as agreed with our European partners some years ago. We shall consult on the details in the course of the Bill's passage. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State clearly explained the position. The ban will be comprehensive: it will include billboards, coupons, sponsorship, free gifts, brand-sharing and the internet. That is as it should be.
Much of the debate has been about freedom and individual rights. I strongly believe that people have a right to smoke. The hon. Member for Woodspring talked about freedom and informed choice. People have a right to smoke, but they also have a right to choose whether to smoke. Nothing in the Bill removes people's right to smoke. We must recognise that there is no comparable legal product in terms of harm caused and addictiveness. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) said, the addiction factor makes debates about freedom of choice rather more complicated. People have a right to smoke, but they also have a right to the chance to give up.
I support people's right to smoke, but I do not support the tobacco industry's right to spend £100 million of the profits it gains from addiction to promote its product and try to hook new smokers. That is what opposition to the Bill is about. It is about maintaining tobacco advertisingnot to protect individuals' freedom, but to protect the right of a big corporate body to use its considerable financial muscle to promote a product that kills. The Bill will not prevent journalists from commenting on smoking and tobacco products, nor writers and artists from writing about them, but it will stop them being paid by the tobacco industry to do so.
The hon. Member for Woodspring set out the traditional, right-wing libertarian view that any action by Government is a restriction on freedom. In the real world, many people, especially children, depend on the Government to protect their rights and freedoms. In the real world, power matters: the power of the tobacco industry to use its profits to promote its product on billboard, leaflets and giveaways. That power is considerable. Set against that is the power of an impressionable 13-year-old girl, whose health and life may depend on the ban. I do not believe that we should protect tobacco advertising and the interests of the tobacco industry. That may be the Conservative view of freedom; it is not mine.
Yvette Cooper: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government's position has been to ensure that sport has an appropriate time to make transitions and find other forms of sponsorship. We want not to hurt sport, but to ensure that we have a comprehensive ban on sponsorship and advertising.
Conservative Members have consistently opposed a ban. They did that when they were in government and when they were in Europe. They are trying to block it now. Let us be clear: the ban would have been in place this time last year if the Conservatives had not blocked it. It would have been in place if the tobacco industry had not blocked it in the European Court. We know why the industry is against the Bill; it has profits at stake.
Why is the Conservative party so determined to block the Bill? Why are Conservative Members so keen to protect the tobacco industry's interests? Evidence has often been mentioned in the debate. In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend set out much of the evidence for the links between tobacco advertising and smoking.
Mr. Connarty: Before the Minister moves too far from discussion of time, will she give a commitment on when the Bill will become law? Will she assure us that it will not be delayed by the discussions of the directive that are taking place in Europe? That directive would have been introduced in 2001 if, as the Minister said, the previous Government had not blocked it.
It is curious that Conservative Members want to claim that the decline in smoking since 1971 is somehow due to the wonderful voluntary ban and the restrictions on advertising, while also claiming that introducing a complete ban would be ineffective. That position is inconsistent.
It is clear that tobacco advertising is targeted at young people. Brands are explicit about targeting 18 to 24-year-olds with aspirational, sexy products. British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris said last September that they would keep their adverts in publications with more than 75 per cent. of adult readers and their sponsorship for events with more than 75 per cent. adults in attendance. What about the other 25 per cent.? Are they supposed to shut their eyes, turn the page and avert their gaze from the sponsoring logos? The tobacco industry claims that it is all right to expose children to tobacco advertising as long as many more adults are exposed to it at the same time.
Conservative Members argued for a sunset clause. That is purely a wrecking tactic by which no one should be convinced. It means that if smoking rates were affected by a wide range of factors, they would want to get rid of the ban and make matters worse. It is like banning BCG vaccinations because of a worldwide resurgence in tuberculosis.
We should remember what out discussions are all about. Smoking kills 120,000 people every year. The tobacco industry makes profits from products that kill. Its advertising and promotion reach not only young people but children. If the tobacco industry believed that the ban would make no impact on smoking prevalence, why is it fighting it so hard? After all, it would save £100 million from marketing budgets. Tobacco companies oppose an advertising ban because they fear that it would cut their sales and profits.
Why are the Tories so keen to back the tobacco industry? Why are they so keen to oppose a measure that health professionals support? Smoking is the biggest cause not only of preventable death but of health inequalities. Those on low incomes are far more likely to smoke. They have most to lose from continuing tobacco advertising in this country. By contrast, those who have most to gain are those who share in the profits of the tobacco industry.
There are winners and losers from a tobacco advertising ban. Let us be clear about the side on which Conservative Members have decided to stay tonight. The Opposition have set out their priorities; we have set out ours. The choice is between the interests of the tobacco industry and public health and the health of the next generation.