Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

David Taylor: I want to make a brief point and, as usual, I should like to be helpful to the Government.

I spoke on Second Reading of my concerns about the uptake of tobacco smoking by young people and about the possible existence of a loophole under clause 2(4). I gave the Bill a broad welcome, with the exception of that subsection. Young people have wider access to and a greater interest in the internet and they are possibly more susceptible to the material on it. Is the Minister convinced that the power provided for in clause 7—I know that we are not discussing that yet, but at certain points clause 2(4) and clause 7 must be debated together—is sufficient to close any loophole that might exist in 2(4)? Clause 7 refers to developments in technology. However, the hoary old established technology already allows the decamping abroad of tobacco promotion to internet service providers, which may well be producing material and ''come-ons'' outside the United Kingdom for the younger section of our population. Will clause 7 be sufficient in its power and scope to cover that loophole? Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell us when we reach the clause 7 debate.

In the 1999 World Bank report, the American researchers Saffer and Chaloupka contributed some common sense that is now writ into advertising language:

    ''A limited set of advertising bans will not reduce the total level of advertising expenditure but will simply result in substitution to the remaining non-banned media.''

It is as likely as night following day that the promotion activities of tobacco companies will decamp abroad. Furthermore, because of their acknowledged focus on recruiting new smokers, who will tend to be young people who are more likely to be internet aware, such activities will lead inexorably to the e-mail accounts of young people receiving unsolicited junk e-mails—spam—that are in some indirect way linked to the promotion of tobacco. Is my hon. Friend convinced that clause 7 will close off the apparent loophole in clause 2(4)?

Column Number: 063

Yvette Cooper: I shall deal with the points that have been made. The clause creates a new offence related to tobacco advertisements. Essentially, it says that anyone involved in the publication, printing, devising or distribution of a tobacco advertisement is guilty of an offence, unless they have a defence as set out later in the Bill. It is right to have such a wide-ranging offence. Anyone knowingly involved with a tobacco advertisement may be liable and later clauses create defences for those whose involvement in the chain should not be penalised.

The first question was about offences applying only in the course of a business. That is right because the Bill is not about preventing members of the public, journalists, writers or others talking about tobacco products, representing them on stage or film or commenting in the press about smoking and tobacco. It does not prevent someone drawing up a poster that says, ''I love cigarettes'' and putting it in their window, if it is not done in the course of a business. It is right that they should be able to do that, because they have a right of free speech and free expression. If they are paid to do so—if it is done in the course of a business or through sponsorship—that is covered by the Bill. The Bill does not affect the free speech of individuals who are not operating in the course of a business, and I believe that that is right. If, however, someone puts in a window an advertisement that has been published by Marlboro—or someone else—after the passage of the Bill, the publishing of the advertisement will be caught under the Bill or, if a company pays for the advertisement to be put in the window, that will be covered by the Bill. If someone is simply putting their views across, they have a right to do so.

In addition, if a journalist chooses to write a news story, that is not an advertisement, but if he is paid by a tobacco company to promote its brand, it would be an advertisement and would be covered by the Bill. It is right that we make such a distinction.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton): The Minister mentioned journalists not being paid. At what level would a journalist be remunerated in terms of, for example, soft entertainment?

Yvette Cooper: Let me try to clarify the matter. I may have slightly confused the two separate distinctions. The first is whether something is done in the course of a business and the second is whether something is an advertisement. A journalist is operating in the course of a business, in that he or she works for a newspaper, but a journalist writing a news story is not writing an advertisement. Such a story would not be covered by the Bill, not because of the

    ''in the course of a business''

distinction, but because it is not an advertisement. If the journalist is receiving free distribution or sponsorship from a tobacco company as encouragement, that is covered later in the Bill and we will have plenty of opportunity to deal with it in some detail in the discussion on sponsorship and what it means.

Column Number: 064

Mr. Flook: May I give the example of the Cartier polo event, which happens once a year on Smith's lawn? What would the situation be if a journalist had been entertained by Cartier, which makes cigarettes, and referred to the event as one that used to be known as the Cartier polo event?

Yvette Cooper: I think that it would depend on whether that counted as an advertisement and whether that person was effectively receiving either free distributions, which are covered by clause 9, or sponsorship, which is covered by clause 10.

10.30 am

Mr. Flook: That is why I asked my original question. If Cartier invited the journalist to the event that was sponsored by somebody else, but Cartier paid for that and the journalist received free entry, at what level would the journalist receive payment for promoting the event previously known as being run by Cartier polo?

Yvette Cooper: This becomes complicated because it would depend on the timing of the Bill coming in—I am slightly confused by the hon. Gentleman's hypothetical situation. Clause 9 contains provisions on the prohibition of free distributions and states:

    ''A person is guilty of an offence if in the course of a business he . . . gives any product or coupon away to the public in the United Kingdom, or . . . causes or permits that to happen, and the purpose or effect of giving the product or coupon away is to promote a tobacco product.''

Clause 10 states:

    ''A person who is party to a sponsorship agreement is guilty of an offence if the purpose or effect of anything done as a result of the agreement is to promote a tobacco product in the United Kingdom.''

I think that the hon. Gentleman's points relate to the interpretation of sponsorship, and I suggest that we may discuss them at length when we consider clause 10.

Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) is making good points that get to the heart of several of the Bill's weaknesses. We are in the realms of discussing infomercials, which are stories written by journalists about the latest tobacco products for newspapers or ''lad's mags''. They may do that without receiving sponsorship from firms. They may be sent samples of cigarettes from several firms, which they can choose to test. In a different capacity, they may attend an event that is sponsored by a tobacco company and enjoy hospitality. That does not constitute sponsorship under the Bill. It is important to know the stage at which the journalist could be guilty of committing an offence unwittingly. We are getting no nearer any definition of that.

Yvette Cooper: As I said, we will have an extensive opportunity to discuss the extent of sponsorship and circumstances in which sponsorship may be interpreted to apply when we consider clause 10. The hon. Gentleman referred to journalists being sent free cigarettes. As I pointed out, clause 9 provides:

    ''A person is guilty of an offence if in the course of a business he . . . gives any product or coupon away to the public in the United Kingdom, or . . . permits that to happen, and the purpose or effect of giving the product or coupon away is to promote a tobacco product.''

Column Number: 065

We will have plenty of opportunities to discuss that. However, I do not think that the point is covered by clause 2 and I want to deal with issues that hon. Gentlemen raised in connection with that clause.

Mr. Wilshire rose—

The Chairman: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, I remind the Committee that we must confine our remarks to clause 2.

Mr. Wilshire: I am happy to park issues of sponsorship until later. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton made a valid point about the phrase

    ''in the course of business'',

which is exactly what we are considering.

I would be interested to hear the Minister's response to my hon. Friend's point. It has nothing to do with tobacco sponsorship if Blogg's jelly babies—or whatever company—sponsors a function and free entry to the event is given to a journalist, although the event's previous sponsor promoted tobacco. However, if I understand my hon. Friend correctly, the journalist could write a general report on the event and mention that it used to be sponsored by a certain tobacco company. Is not that the loophole about which we should be worried?

Yvette Cooper: I do not think that the situation that the hon. Gentleman is describing would count as an advertisement, because it would be a journalist writing about a particular event in the form of a news story, which would not be described as an advertisement. Magazines often make distinctions, such as printing the word ''advertisement'' at the top of a page, so I do not accept that the hon. Gentleman's anxieties are well founded. There is no problem for journalists when describing events that they have attended, so long as they are not sponsored by the tobacco industry to do so. However, we will discuss that when we reach clause 10.

 
Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index


©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 9 May 2002