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Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): Before the hon. Gentleman goes off on the normal SNP trip, does he accept that the House of Commons is the place to legislate for United Kingdom bans, and that we must focus on Europe to gain the strength of the European Union behind any measure to change people's view of smoking? It is a waste of the Scottish Parliament's time to deal with a subject that is not devolved.
Pete Wishart: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, with which I agree. Of course, a UK-wide, and indeed, a Europe-wide ban would be more effective. Nicola Sturgeon promoted her private Member's Bill when the Government appeared to be prevaricating on the issue, and there was no mention of it in the Queen's Speech. Perhaps that was impatience on our part and the Government always intended to introduce the Bill. However, I contend that we would not be debating Second Reading if it were not for the efforts of people such as Lord Clement-Jones and Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues in the Scottish Parliament. Although we have withdrawn that Bill in the Scottish Parliament, it remains on the table in case the Government prevaricate again, or Conservative Members have their way, which is unlikely.
Having such a Bill considered in the Scottish Parliament has given us a clear picture of the state of smoking in Scotland, which has an especially atrocious record on incidence and smoking-related disease and illness. We were shown the role that advertising plays in that.
In Scotland, more than 1 million people smokealmost a third of the adult population. A Scottish health survey showed that 13,000 people a year die through smoking. In Glasgow, 37.5 per cent. of people smoke. That proportion rises to approximately 50 per cent. in areas of poverty and social deprivation. In Scotland, our tobacco problems may be more acute because of the high levels of poverty and social deprivation, especially in west-central Scotland. In disadvantaged communities, smoking can be a majority, and hence a sociable activity.
It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that, despite the Chancellor's best efforts to try to tax cigarettes and put them beyond the easy reach of our poorer communities, tobacco remains a protected and necessary purchase even in times of financial hardship. That is a major dilemma for the tobacco industry. On the one hand, its product is expensive. If it were reintroduced, it would probably be classified as a luxury item. On the other hand, the core marketthe people to whom it needs to sell cigarettesis made up of the poor and the socially deprived.
The industry has come up with many ingenious ways in which to deal with that problem. It uses all manner of cheap gimmicks to try to ensure that there is no embarrassment about buying cheaper products. In the written media, premium brands are inevitably advertised in broadsheets and style magazines, while cheaper cigarettes are always advertised in the tabloids.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Is not the hon. Gentleman advancing the argument that the tobacco manufacturers are advertising to win or maintain brand share? My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) advanced precisely the same argument earlier, but the hon. Gentleman appeared to disagree with it.
Pete Wishart: As I said to the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), if he was right, the tobacco industry must be the only one that would try to advertise without trying to increase consumption. That is unfeasible.
John Robertson: Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. People keep dying and they have to be replaced only to mark time. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) is therefore right in his way, but so is the hon. Gentleman. People are dying and the tobacco advertisers have to get the young to take their place.
The tobacco industry targets the socially deprived and the poor. The excellent "Keep Smiling; No One's Going to Die" survey examined documents from five of the agencies that have advertising accounts with tobacco companies. It found an appalling cynicism and many attempts to flout the rules. It also discovered that the industry had no great concern for the health and well-being of its consumers or potential consumers. It was worried only about minimising health concerns. Regulation was there to be challenged. It found that the poor could be reached by all manner of gimmicks and cheap promotions and making sure that people were comfortable with cheaper brands. That fits with the general aims of tobacco advertisers.
The aims of tobacco advertising are threefold: first, the recruitment of young smokers; secondly, rallying the troops to encourage adult smokers to ignore the health risks of tobacco and continue to smoke; thirdly, encouraging people who have already quit smoking to lapse. Perhaps the last point is the most cynical because people who stop smoking at any point can gain significant health benefits.
However, hon. Members on both sides of the argument are worried about young people. I believe that they are more vulnerable to the pernicious advertising of the tobacco industry. I was interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber), who remains in her place.
It is easy to persuade a 10-year-old not to smoke. Young children can be pious about smoking. My 10-year-old son will recoil at the thought of someone lighting up and quote chapter and verse about why it is not good for you. It is quite easy to convince someone in their early 20s not to smoke. Life experience dictates that it does not make much sense to take up something that will clearly curtail one's life and might lead to any number of diseases. It is a lot more difficult to convince teenagers not to smoke. That is the target group that concerns me most. I worked voluntarily with a national
Almost all new smokers begin before their 18th birthday. The literature shows that young people's smoking behaviour is linked with their awareness, and that they pay significantly more attention to tobacco advertising. The tobacco industry knows that. It also knows that if it does not get its new recruits before they reach their early 20s, it will not get them at all. Young people are also confused by the mixed messages from adult society, which can appear hypocritical. They are told not to smoke, and that smoking may eventually kill them, yet there are adverts everywhere, as though tobacco were some benign domestic product.
Several hon. Members have talked about their own experiences, and their relationship with the dreaded weed. I shall briefly mention mine. I started smoking as a teenager. I played in rock bands for 20-odd years and smoking was what people did. I wanted to emulate my heroes, as did all my peers. Sometimes role models do not behave like model citizens. Sometimes they do not do what we want them to do, and a celebrity with a fag in his or her hand is worth more than a thousand billboard adverts to the tobacco industry.
Dr. Evan Harris: On that point, does the hon. Gentleman agree that we are fighting a continuous battle for the hearts and minds of young people? The fact that this country spends £13 million on health promotion in relation to tobacco while the industry spends £130 million helping to flog it shows the tenfold discrepancy between the efforts that we are making in public health and the efforts that the industry is making to sell its product.
Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. A similar analogy has been drawn using another example, which is that it is like putting a baby in to fight Mike Tyson. We just do not stand a chance when we try to put the message across. We are always going to be at a disadvantage, when we consider the amounts of money that the tobacco industry has available.
If there is one aspect of the Bill with which I am disappointed, it relates to celebrities and promotion. I would like the Bill to have more to do with product placement, especially in films and dramas. The regulations could also be tightened up for television, where celebrities and personalities can appear willy-nilly in normal television programmes smoking cigarettes or freely and frankly discussing their tobacco use. Overall, however, I support the Government on this measure. This is a very good Bill and it will go some way to reducing the amount of smoking-related diseases and deaths.
Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South): By this time of night, it is quite difficult to say anything that other speakers have not already said. I pay tribute to the many Labour Members who have explained, more eloquently than I could, why it is important that this Bill should be on the statute book. I, too, reckon that it is an important Bill. I have detected some confusion, however, from the official OppositionI call them that so that Liberal
I can understand that some Conservative Members who are well-known smokers would not have received the kind of lobbying and information that I did. The Bill was not originally in the Queen's Speech. Almost every cancer charity and organisation working in the field of public health has written to us in the most graphic terms, giving the most detailed arguments as to why this is a very important piece of legislation. They reckon that it will save 3,000 lives each year in Britain300 in Scotlandand that an additional 830 people a year in Scotland will not be admitted to hospital if the measure becomes law.
As I said, I can believe that some Conservative Back-Benchers who are well-known smokers would not have been sent that information. I cannot, however, believe that the Opposition spokesman on health, the hon. Member for Woodspring, was not deluged with the same information that I and other Labour Members were sent. For him to have ignored it is irresponsible and a real disappointment. I had always thought better of him, and I have to agree with some of my hon. Friends who suggested that he was struggling to make his points. In fact, I do not think that he necessarily believed many of the points that he made.
The hon. Gentleman's argument seemed to rest on the premise that, because banning advertising would not stop everybody smoking, it was not a valuable thing to do. Of course, if tobacco advertising were banned tomorrow, everyone would not stop smoking. I would love it if they did, but that is not going to happen. There is no doubt, however, that if we ban tobacco advertising, we shall take away the oxygen of publicityand respectabilityfrom the tobacco manufacturers.
We are sending out a clear message to young people that society does not think that tobacco can be advertised in the way that other household products are. It is a dangerous product; it kills people, and the advertising of it should be banned. I have to say that I would probably ban smoking as well, but that proposal is not before the House tonight. Perhaps my attitude to that is rather more Stalinist than that of some other hon. Members.
This measure has to be part of the wider endeavour by the Government andI acceptthe Opposition to ensure that people cut their tobacco consumption. During his speech, I intervened on the hon. Member for Woodspring to ask him a question about tobacco smuggling. He seemed to suggest that the prevalence of smoking in young girls had gone up because of an increase in tobacco smuggling, which made tobacco more cheaply available. Perhaps people are encouraged to smoke more when tobacco is cheaper. I was very specific in my question to the hon. Gentleman, asking whether he was referring only to younger teenage girls of 13, 14 or 15 years old. If that
Before I was elected to this place, I was a secondary school teacher. One of my great concerns at the timethis was long before the Labour Government came into powerwas that that specific group of young teenage girls was being sucked into taking up smoking for the first time. As a lot of Members have said, once people start smoking it is difficult to give up. In fact, the best way to stop is not to start in the first place. As the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) and, very poignantly, my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) said, advertising does its wicked best when youngsters are most vulnerable, encouraging young girls in particular to take up smoking.
Why do young girls start? There are a number of myths going round as to what smoking can do. Young girls believe that they will lose weightperhaps their appetite will be suppressed, so they will eat lessbut that is based on a fallacy. The other big fallacy among the young girls I taught was their belief that smoking reduces stress. They did not always believe me when I explained that they were feeling stress because they smoked; they had withdrawal symptoms because the substance is very addictive. Had they not started smoking, they would not have been under that stress at all.
Young girls are often vulnerable when they go into their first set of exams; my niece is taking her standard grade exams next week. At that stage, 15-year-old girls take up smokingan image is created by smoking, advertising and product placement involving models, and they are susceptible to taking on and believing those messages.
Of course, young girls also think that smoking is cool. I pay tribute to the Health Education Board for Scotland advertisements, which have been effective in encouraging young teenage girls not to take up smoking. A song plays over the group of young girls who are trying to chase the boysit says, "Why do you keep running from me, boy?"but the girls cannot keep up because smoking has left them with no breath. Those advertisements have turned on its head the image of the cool, sexy smoker who attracts the boys. In fact, smoking often drives them away.
A number of Members have said that the tobacco industry spends 10 times more on promotion than the Government spend on preventing tobacco use. Conservative Members say that they want an informed choice, but how can that choice be informed when 10 times more is spent on promoting tobacco through advertising than is spent by either the Government agencies or the other agencies working on smoking cessation?
I pay tribute to the Bill's prohibition of free distribution, which has not been mentioned. I was horrified to discover that a tobacco company gave away cigarettes during a recent freshers' week at a local university. That was outrageous, and I am glad that such promotion is to be outlawed.
I hope that Nicola Sturgeon introduced her Bill to the Scottish Parliament for the best of reasons, but I suspect that political expediency may have been involved, as nothing would be dafter than banning tobacco advertising in Scotland without banning it in England and Wales. How on earth could we prevent glossy magazines