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Mr. Barron: The estimate that the Government have considered is an average of the reduction in consumption in countries that took the decision to ban tobacco advertising for public health reasons, rather than to protect home markets. The evidence is irrefutable.
We have to ask why Conservative Members continue to oppose the legislation. They give great credence to voluntary codes and ask us to rely on voluntary agreements to protect teenagers and other vulnerable groups from the influence of tobacco advertising. I have long believed that the voluntary arrangements have failed to deliver the gains in public health that we have a right to expect.
A good example of that came in the evidence taken by the Health Committee before it published its report "The Health Risks of Smoking" in 2000. In the second volume, at page 318, we can see an attempt to show that advertising supposedly designed to encourage 18 to 24-year-olds to switch brands had no effect on young people's smoking habits. Advertising agencies were giving evidence on how they pitched their advertisements at different age groups, claiming that they affected only adults, not children.
The voluntary arrangements say that no advertising will be targeted at people below the age of 18. We have heard about billboards not being near schools, but the whole point of the voluntary codes is that advertising should be pitched only at adults.
Referring to evidence submitted by a company called TBWA GCT Simons Palmer Ltd., Audrey Wisehon. Members will recall how assiduous she was in questioning witnesses, just as she was assiduous in questioning Ministers in the Houseasked the company chairman, Mr. Paul Bainsfair, to explain how he could be sure that an advertisement that would appeal to an 18-year-old would not have the same appeal for a 14 or 15-year-old.
Conservative Members have referred to the voluntary code. What say they about a man who makes a living advertising the products of tobacco companies and says that he works within the guidelines of the voluntary code? The code has failed our young people for years. That is the truth. Until Conservative Members recognise it, they will never be able to understand the tobacco industry, which was well described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) as targeting our young people.
People start smoking between the ages of 11 and 15; 20-year-olds never start smokingit is not an adult choice, and never has been. I started smoking at the age of 10. That was not an adult choice. People are cynically aware that it is not an adult choice, and they exploit the voluntary codes to overcome the restrictions. It is about time the Opposition got their act together and decided to tell some of the truth about why they are again using weasel words in their amendment.
The Opposition say that this all boils down to the issues of teenagers and other vulnerable groups, and illegal imports. It is true to say that tobacco smuggling is a major problem, but it is not true to say that the Government are not doing anything about it: far from it. At least one tobacco company is still under investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry, and some of us are not convinced that when tobacco produced in this country is sent abroad and thensometimes within seven daysarrives back in this country illegally, thereby avoiding taxes, the industry does not know about it.
I was tempted by what my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said about issuing export licences, as we do for weapons made by the defence industry. Tobacco kills a lot more people than weapons do, and the manufacturers should not be allowed to get away with that.
In just six months, the new network of X-ray scanners has detected about 80 million cigarettes and 4.5 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco. Customs investigators have broken up 43 major organised crime rings involving the large-scale smuggling and supply of cigarettes. Also in 200001, Customs and Excise seized more than 10,200 cars, vans and lorries used by smugglersalmost double the number seized in 19992000.
Let me put that in context: of the 14 million people who entered the UK through the channel ports in 2000, 99.8 per cent. passed through without a problem. That is what the Government are doing about smuggling. We know that smuggled tobacco finds its way to young people, and that it avoids taxation, but the Government are taking action; they are spending millions of pounds at ports now.
As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I can tell the House that a lot more is done about tobacco smuggling and other serious crimes in our ports, and throughout our country, than has ever been done beforeand more than was even dreamed of by the Conservative party when it was in government. We will take no lessons from the Conservatives on this subject.
Mr. Barron: I know that we do that with the Prevention of Terrorism Act, because of the issues involved, and that is right and properbut it is nonsense to say that any other legislation should have a sunset clause.
Tim Loughton: I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that sunset clauses have now become an issue. He says that tobacco kills more people than terrorism, so by his own logic, why will he not accept a sunset clause for this Bill in case, as we contend, the means that it uses are not right?
Tobacco products have enjoyed an unprecedented degree of freedom from the safety regulations that apply to virtually all the food and drug products available in Britain today. I have never heard Conservative Members arguing that prescription drugs should be available everywhere so that people can use their freedom of choice to go out and buy them. We have always restricted the availability of things that are bad for public health. Why do the Conservatives not go along with this sensible suggestion, which will reduce cigarette consumption, just as the taxation imposed by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer reduced it?
I do not know the answer. Perhaps the Conservatives' historical link with the tobacco industry is still there. I had a private Member's Bill talked out when the Conservative party and the tobacco companies linked up to ensure that public health measures did not make progress in the Chamber. If Opposition Members could answer my questions about how one can advertise something to an 18-year-old without affecting 15-year-olds, they might even get me thinking as they dobut as things are, they have to defend their position.