|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
There is huge consumption of tobacco throughout the globe. We are debating whether an advertising ban will have an effect on that consumption. Such is the momentum of the tobacco industry round the globe that I do not think that such a ban will make a difference. What is more, I maintain that there is little or no evidence to support the contention.
In a review of all the studies that have been carried out, Colin MacDonald states that there is no evidence in any of the studies to suggest that if advertising were banned, it would make the least difference to the propensity of children to smoke. Of course, stopping children smoking is an aim; it is an objective. It is illegal for children under the age of 16 to smoke. We should be targeting an attempt to limit such children's access to tobacco sales. I would warmly support the requirement that anyone wishing to buy tobacco should be able to prove that he or she is aged 16 or older. We can marry when 16. We can have sexual relations when 16. We should be able to decide whether we are a fit person to smoke cigarettes at the age of 16.
There is rising consumption of tobacco. There are rising sales. Taxes have risen by 5 per cent. above the retail price index over the past five years. During that period, the Government have tried to change behaviour, and a morality tax has not worked.
To introduce the ban that is proposed is a breach of human rights. It is not illegal to manufacture or import tobacco products. It is not illegal to sell such products. It is not illegal to buy and smoke tobacco products. I choose not to smoke, and that is my right. It is a free country and we live in a free society. However, I believe that a tolerant society should respect minority interests.
We are faced with an unprecedented ban. I know that ASH will say that there are other precedents, but there are weaknesses underlying the arguments for them. We are discussing a ban on something that is a legal activity. It is a breach of commercial freedom. It is a breach also of the ability of markets to function. That is the reason why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) dwelt at length on the EU standstill. It requires a standstill so that it can consider the proposals to ensure that we have a functioning market.
The Bill offends the principle of freedom of speech and reduces personal liberty. It does nothing to help the citizen make his own choice, and nothing to educate the citizen. The Bill is a paternalistic intervention in a personal lifestyle. It claims to protect others and it assumes that others are incapable of making their own choices. I suspect that that is the difference between the two sides of the House.
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): Last week, I went to the funeral of a dear friend of mine, Veronica. None of us knew that she had cancer. We all knew that she smoked. It was obviously an emotional day for me and everyone else who was there. For every 1,000 20-year-old smokers, six will die from motor accidents and 250 will die in middle age from smoking. Another 250 will die later in life. I will do anything and support anything that can help us cut the killer that we are debating, and that is what we must do.
I welcome the Bill, but deplore the fact that it was not enacted before the general election. It is deplorable also that the Opposition are opposing it this evening. Sixty per cent. of people say that there should be a total ban on advertising, including half of all smokers. I did not receive any answer from the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), who was really struggling, while speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. He could not explain what individual liberty was being removed by the Bill. I do not think that my friend Veronica would have felt that her freedom was being taken away by a ban on the right of cigarette manufacturers to persuade her earlier in her life to smoke. She would not have thought that that was a ban on her freedom.
On Thursday, I visited Loscoe primary school in my constituency. I went because it had won an achievement award for getting good results as a consequence of its hard work. I did not realise that, as part of Derbyshire's health promoting schools scheme, it had brought in a poet to help the school to write poetry about smoking. Young Ashley Mellors put the effects of smoking as clearly and briefly as one can. His poem read:
A six-year-old girl spoke to me and said, "I'm trying to get my daddy to give up. My mummy's also trying to get him to give up, and he won't." A similar sentiment was expressed by someone slightly older, in the Amber Valley secondary schools year 7 project, who has been desperately trying to throw away his daddy's cigarettes to try to stop him smoking. He said, "I'm very angry. My grandad died last week from smoking."
This is very emotive, but it raises an interesting question. We all agree that we should try to get people to give up smoking. Younger children are antagonistic to smoking, so what happens in the next few years, or even just a year later, that can make those same children take up smoking? I have relatives and friends who were vehemently anti-smoking early on, but took it up later. The question is how that happens.
I was pleased with the support of the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) for the Bill, but disappointed that he thought that the money going to the health service was not going towards public health. One of the big improvements in my area has come from the Amber Valley primary care trust, which has put a great deal of effort into smoking cessation. On Thursday night I went to a smoking cessation clinic in Amber Valley. The group was in the third week of the programme. Members of the group had given up for a week and were recounting all their strategies for making sure that they kept on giving up. I was pleased that most of them agreed to have their photo taken at the end. I thought that it must mean that they were really committed if they were prepared to put themselves on the line in a photo.
One couple there had started smoking at the ages of 12 and 13. She was pregnant. They started when they were a year or two older than the second boy whom I mentioned, and just a few years older than that six-year-old girl. How did that happen? We would save a huge amount of money for the health service if we stopped pregnant women smoking. How much better if we did not have to put in the effort to get them to give up later by stopping them earlier.
What happens to those younger children? That is the dilemma. We know that there has been a big increase in the proportion of 11 to 15-year-olds who smoke. For girls it is even more marked. In 1988, one in five 15-year-olds smoked. Now the figure is one in three. The Amber Valley smoking cessation clinics have had an impressive success rate: from what we know, about 65 per cent. of participants continue to have given up smoking. However, we will not stop youngsters experimenting with tobacco. How will we stop that developing into a habit? How do we prevent them from going through the agony of giving up smoking?
I got a clue when I looked into the secondary school project in my area, which I mentioned earlier. In a theatrical-type exercise, the children are encouraged to think about what makes them smoke. As in "Big Brother", they can go into a video booth and have a private video conversation after the group session and say what they think. A boy in year 7 spoke about why he was getting involved in smoking. Children clearly know intellectually that it is not cool to smoke, but they still feel that it is.
That boy is in a state of vulnerability and confusion which make him susceptible to advertising campaigns. That is when advertising can add to the problem and perhaps make him take up smoking. He thinks that he will, but he does not know why. In the secondary school project, the children set out a range of factors that might lead them to want to take up smoking. Many of those related to peer pressure, family pressure, the image of smoking as cool and attractive, and the desire to lose weight. Many of those factors can be influenced by advertising. I am not saying that that is the only influence, but it is a potentially important one.
I am not suggesting that putting all our effort into controlling advertising will work, but an industry would not spend all that money on advertising if it did not have an effect. The brands that are advertised the most are those that are smoked the most, especially by children. It could be argued that that proves what the tobacco companies claimthat their advertising is designed simply to make people switch brands, not to entice new groups into smoking. However, one has only to read the string of quotations from tobacco companies to know that that is nonsense, and that for decades they have exerted deliberate pressure on young people to take up smoking. The quotes are endless. For example, one states: