Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

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Yvette Cooper: I shall attempt to respond briefly to the arguments. I am always keen to close loopholes and should be happy to examine further the issue of whether products to be swallowed should be included. They have not been so far, despite the extensive scrutiny in this House and the other place, but I am always happy to look again at any potential loophole that should be closed.

As I made clear, tobacco is not a constituent of nicotine; nicotine is a constituent of tobacco. The Bill is about controlling the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. There is no known nicotine product anywhere that is as efficient as tobacco in getting the nicotine to the consumer but, clearly, if new non-tobacco products are being promoted or seeking to come on to the market, we have ways to regulate those under the Consumer Protection Acts or, if swallowed, under the Food Safety Act 1990. There are frameworks for tackling such matters, although if new products are created in 10 years' time that none of us has anticipated, inevitably, the legislation will have to be considered in the light of that.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to the Minister for those comments about other ways of controlling certain products. Can she tell us whether either of those routes for controlling such products would have any control whatsoever on the advertising of them?

Yvette Cooper: If they were not allowed to be sold, then obviously there would be no point in advertising them. Clearly, there are links between the sale and the advertising of products but, as I recognised, if new products emerge or if the market changes in 10 years' time, future Parliaments will have to take that into account. It is right at this stage to introduce this Bill on tobacco products, because they are the most efficient and effective way of providing people with nicotine. At the same time, it allows us to promote effective nicotine replacement therapy to help people who want to give up smoking.

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The hon. Member for Spelthorne mentioned snuff. That is not as dangerous as smoking, but it is addictive and a source of increased cases of oral and nasal cancer. Although the hon. Gentleman might not anticipate people going round sniffing no matter how much the tobacco industry promotes it, we should never underestimate possible changes in fashion and the different approaches and attitudes that generations of young people can have to new products over time. It would be unwise for us to introduce a loophole in that respect. That is why we reject the amendment.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton): First, I should like to draw hon. Members attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests.

I should like to ask the Minister about her comments that there could be a Marlboro advert on the side of a van or a price list with a Silk Cut logo on it, or logos themselves falling out of colour supplements. She went on to say that advertisers could advertise ''their'' product. I am as keen as everyone else to close loopholes. The phrase ''natural meaning'' has come up. My concern is more to do with clause stand part than with the amendment, so I am grateful for being able to raise it here—a concern about the natural meaning of the word ''promotion''. I want to be helpful and deter clever lawyers and I would have thought that the natural meaning of ''promotion'' is the positive promotion of something. Have the Government given any thought to whether a competitor might diss a product and in so doing advertise it? I am aware that comparative advertising is just about legal in this country but it is not as well established as in America. Might not clever lawyers in the big wide world be able to use the negative of ''promote'', which is not the natural meaning, and consequently get around the legislation?

6.45 pm

Tim Loughton: We have had another interesting debate, but I want to return to a couple of points on the clause that a clever lawyer could easily march through and we want to prevent that. The Minister's response was going quite well, but took a nosedive when she referred to something not being entertained here. She gave the excuse that tobacco is not an ingredient of nicotine. That is legitimate, but nicotine is a product of tobacco. I am no expert on tobacco, but I am led to believe that some nicotine replacement drugs are produced from the genus of plants known as Nicotiana, which have a high nicotine content. The waste products of the tobacco industry and the tobacco liquors used in Virginia cigar production are frequently used to produce nicotine replacement drugs. The nicotine is obtained by water vapour distillation or precipitation from tobacco extract or nicotine extract.

If I were a clever lawyer, which I am not, I could make a convincing case for nicotine being a product of tobacco, which is another form of tobacco product. Although it may not be a tobacco product in that it does not contain tobacco, it is a product of tobacco

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because it is made by a vapourisation process of tobacco. It is a product of tobacco and, in another sense, a tobacco product.

The more I repeat that, the stronger the argument becomes. Has the Minister considered that that is just the sort of argument that a lawyer could make? I repeat that it would be helpful to define in the Bill that nicotine replacement therapy products would not be hit by the advertising ban. Obviously, they should be promoted and it should be legitimate to advertise them, although I do not know who is allowed to produce them. If I were an executive of a tobacco manufacturing company and feeling under threat from the reduction in product sales, I would go into the production of nicotine replacement products to protect both ends of the market. As they are licensed under the Medicines Acts, I presume that they are produced by pharmaceutical companies, but I see no reason why tobacco companies would not branch out

I may be making a pedantic point, but it seems to me as an amateur and non-lawyer that it should be pursued. We are trying to be helpful in the amendment and the Minister sympathised with its principle so I ask her to reconsider it. It is a probing amendment and I shall not press it, but it highlights some of the problems that may arise without a better definition in the Bill. Those problems could undermine some of the good work that the Government and other health promotion bodies are doing to help people to stop smoking. I am not going to press the amendment to a Division. I do not know if the Minister will respond to my comments at this stage, but I think that she should be aware that the matter is not as easy as the terms in the Bill suggest.

Yvette Cooper: I shall respond briefly. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) referred to the problem of a company advertising its product or someone else's. The company doing the advertising is the one that would be guilty of the offence. Whether it is promoting its own tobacco product, or deliberately promoting or attacking another company's product, if the effect of the advertisement is to promote tobacco products, it will be covered by the Bill.

Mr. Flook: Perhaps the Minister did not fully understand what I was saying because she was too busy discussing with her Whip what time we were going to finish. My point was that promotion is a positive act. If Philip Morris, which does not make Benson and Hedges, said that Benson and Hedges are terrible in an advertisement, and left it at that, it is not promoting that brand. Who does one take to court?

Yvette Cooper: The company that would be taken to court is the one doing the promoting. The question would be whether the effect was to promote a tobacco product or not. As I understand it, his argument seems to describe a case in which a company is attacking rather than promoting a tobacco product. If a company put forward an advertisement in which the effect was to try and persuade people to give up smoking or give up a particular product, the question would be: is the effect of the advert to promote a tobacco product? If it is promoting tobacco, it is

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covered by the Bill. If it promotes giving up smoking, that is a different question entirely. We are concerned with whether companies are promoting tobacco products. That is what the Bill—and the clause—is all about.

On what is a constituent of what, the argument of the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham seemed to get incredibly tied up in knots. If we were to apply the same argument to water and oranges, we could argue that water is a constituent of oranges because oranges are made up of water. It is possible to extract water from oranges. However, no one would argue that water was made from oranges or that oranges were somehow a constituent part of water. It is a statement of fact that nicotine is a constituent of tobacco products, but tobacco is not a constituent of nicotine.

David Taylor: Is it not a more direct way of demolishing that argument to suggest that it is paralleled by an age-old example of a lack of logic. We might say that all barmy MPs are Tories, but not all Tories are barmy MPs.

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Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. I think that I have responded to the points that have been made. As I have said, we sympathise with the intention of the amendment, but it would cause all sorts of serious problems, particularly concerning the issue of low tar cigarettes. That is why we oppose the amendment and ask the Committee to vote against it.

Tim Loughton: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of the debate on the amendment proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Fitzpatrick.]

        Adjourned accordingly at six minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 9 May at Nine o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Mr. David Amess (Chairman)
Bailey, Mr.
Barrett, John
Cooper, Yvette
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flook, Mr.
Hall, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hopkins, Mr.
Hunter, Mr.

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Khabra, Mr.
Loughton, Tim
Mallaber, Judy
Robertson, John
Ruffley, Mr.
Taylor, David
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Ward, Ms
Wilshire, Mr.
Wishart, Pete

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