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21 Oct 2002 : Column 77continued
Mr. Hopkins: I do not care for ice-cream, but that is not the point. Selling illicit, cheap, imported tobacco or cigarettes, especially to the less well-off, is not acceptable and could easily be effectively policed.
Some corner shops sell such illicit tobacco products and they, too, could be policed easily. If there were serious penalties, the practice would be stopped. At the same time, we must police our borders, which is much easier for us as an island than if we had land boundaries. We should address smuggling; it is a serious problem. Cigarettes and tobacco products are easier to smuggle than alcohol because they are so small and light, but we should take steps to stop, or at least severely reduce, smuggling.
When my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Luton, NorthJohn Carlisleleft this place, he took up employment in the tobacco industry and, for a salary several times larger than that of a Member of Parliament, speaks for the industry on television programmes such as XNewsnight". He has done extremely well out of the tobacco industry.
Mr. Pound: Is my hon. Friend aware that his distinguished predecessor has never, despite the financial emoluments, allowed himself to savour the sweet, aromatic produce of the glorious tobacco plant? He is a non-smoker.
Mr. Hopkins: In that sense my predecessor is altruistic, because he is advocating something that he does not do himself. He advertises the pleasures of smoking without actually being a smoker, although there are of course financial inducements. I digress, however, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I will not test you further.
It is significant, however, that the tobacco companies found it useful to employ an extremely articulate former parliamentarian to speak on their behalf, to promote their products and the idea that smoking is fine.
Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West): Does my hon. Friend agree that even more pernicious than the employment of ex-Members of Parliament, whether or not they smoke and whatever their salary, is the way that tobacco companies have permeated sports sponsorship? It will be a Herculean task for many sports to wean themselves from their dependency on tobacco advertising. Will my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister bear in mind the problems for my sportanglingdue to its sponsorship by Embassy? The company is currently sponsoring the Embassy pairs final. All the qualifying heats are due to be completed by May 2003 for an event that will take place in Spain the following year. However, the event may fall foul of the regulations as currently drafted. Has my hon. Friend given any consideration to the introduction of the regulations?
Mr. Hopkins: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention although I have no immediate answer to his difficulty. I appreciate the problem: regrettably, sports have learned to depend on tobacco producers for sponsorship and will have to look elsewhere. One hopes that they are successful. However, that is not an argument for sustaining such sponsorship for longer than necessary. When the Bill is enacted, one hopes that it will disappear quickly.
Branding is extremely powerful. The mere use of a colour, with no reference to cigarettes, is enough to make people think of Benson and Hedges, John Player or Silk Cut. When I was a young personsome years agoand a smoker, we all favoured our own brand; one's identity was bound up with the cigarettes one smoked
One or two of my friends were Francophiles and chose to smoke Gauloises or Gitanes. Others liked king-size cigarettesas my hon. Friend pointed out. I mixed with amateur jazz musicians and in those circles it was fashionable to smoke roll-up cigarettes
I wanted to emphasise that branding and personal identity are very powerful indeedthe idea that XI'm a Park Drive man" and so on. We must address that issue because brands will continue, even without advertising. I am not suggesting that all cigarettes should be sold in brown paper packets, numbered X1", X2" or X3". Nevertheless, we must deal with branding because I am sure that tobacco companies will persist in trying to reinforce our loyalty to cigarette smoking and to particular brands by every subtle means at their disposal, so we have to look beyond the Bill to further measures.
I shall end my speech very soon, as I have made my points, but I want to make a final point, which I made in Committee as well: alcohol is very different from cigarettes, although there are some similarities. Alcohol is not addictive for most people, and most people drink it in moderation. Indeed, some people consider that it is healthy in small quantities. However, one cigarette is bad; 100 cigarettes are 100 times worse. All cigarettes are bad. They are fairly quickly addictive, and most people who smoke are addicted, which is not true of people who consume alcohol. So I emphasise the difference between cigarettes and alcohol, although, in time, we must address the problems of alcohol, too.
Sandra Gidley: I am here tonight as a substitute in many ways for my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris); it is his birthday, so I thought it would be useful to let him have the chance to get away.
As has been said by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), apart from a passing interest, I have had little involvement in the Bill this time round, but I served on the Committee that considered the Bill when it was first introduced during the previous Parliament. I should like to pay tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who was here earlier this evening, for displaying a strong commitment to the previous Bill, and she has since publicly expressed her disappointment that it was not included in the Queen's Speech in 2001.
The Bill interests me on a personal level because my father died from lung cancer. He was a non-smoker, but I have absolutely no doubt that he was a victim of passive smoking in his work environment, so I personally support anything that will reduce smoking. Not many people smoke in my circle of friends, so it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that smoking is declining, but I used to work in the retail sector, where the situation was very different.
I worked as a pharmacist in supermarkets, and nearly all the young people used to head for the smoking box at break time. Most of them had started smoking at school. I do not know how influenced they were by advertising, but I am fairly sure that allowing fewer images of smoking, fewer reminders and fewer prompts suggesting that a brand is sexy in some way can be only to our benefit.
The Minister has said that the Bill is historic. In fact, I am sure not whether she intended to use those words because the historic bit seems to be that the pledge to introduce it has been hanging around since 1997. I am not quite sure of the reasons why we could not agree about the Bill sooner. If the Conservatives were so keen for the Bill to go ahead, there is no reason why it could not all have been worked out through the usual channels when the election was called.
The Minister has said that smoking eventually kills one in two smokers, so does she accept that the delay has been unfortunate and has cost lives? I need to make that point, but I do not want to be too churlish. It is clear that the Bill will make a significant contribution to reducing the number of deaths, and I am glad that it will have the support of the House, but it is not a stand-alone measure.
Much has been said about smoking cessation initiatives, but they are still too few and still not advertised widely enough. The health education messages are not getting across, and we must do something to tackle the problem. Most children in my constituency are dead set against smoking when they leave primary school, but something happens to change that. We need to look closely at why that change occurs.
I agree with the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham that soaps and films have a very powerful influence. If people see someone smoking whom they admire or think is attractive, it adds to the package and sends the wrong message. Somehow, we have to get the message through to the media that we should have a few more positive health messages, rather than negative ones.
I also wish to add my comments on bootleg cigarettes and alcohol. Again, I was working in the supermarket sector when the duty-free arrangements changed, and nearly every supermarket in the south of England experienced a dramatic drop in its cigarette sales. I do not believe that that drop occurred because everyone was jumping on to a booze cruise to stock up on personal supplies at the weekend. Many people spent a lot of time and effort making a lucrative living from the change in duty-free arrangements. It is bit rich for the Conservatives to complain at length about that issue because they cut down the number of Custom and Excise staff considerably when they were in government, but I am glad to say that they appear to have seen the light now.
On Second Reading, Conservative Members claimed that there was insufficient evidence that the Bill would lead to a quantifiable reduction in tobacco consumption. There may be no such evidence, but there is certainly no evidence that introducing the Bill will increase tobacco consumption. I happen to believe that reducing such images will decrease tobacco consumption, and if we tackle the other problems together, perhaps the rate of smoking will fall dramatically.