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21 Oct 2002 : Column 65continued
After that rather surprisingly swift canter through the rest of the agenda, I am delighted that, at this early stage of the evening, we have arrived at the Third Reading of what I believe to be a tremendously important, significant and, dare I say, historic Bill.
The Bill has been extensively debated in Committee; I was going to say that it was extensively debated today, but clearly that is not the case. No amendments have been made to the Bill at either stage. That is not surprising as, first, it has had the benefit of lengthy debates in another place, where several amendments were made. I pay tribute to Lord Clement-Jones for his resourcefulness in promoting the Bill there and taking it through as a private Member's Bill. Secondly, the Bill is of course largely the same measure as the Government Bill of the same name that was before the House in the previous Parliament, when it was improved in a number of ways.
It is worth repeating just what this Bill will do and why it is necessary. It will ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in this country in order to protect public health and to protect children. Smoking eventually kills one out of every two smokers, 120,000 of our fellow citizens every year. Advertising of tobacco products promotes a deadly product. We know, too, that children tend to smoke the most heavily advertised brands. We cannot turn the clock back and legislate tobacco out of existence, even if we wanted to, but we can act to help the majority of current smokers who want to stop and, as importantly, to control the marketing of this lethal product so that fewer people take up this lethal habit in the first place.
The evidence is clear and demonstrates the importance of a ban on tobacco advertising. We have talked about the Smee report, commissioned by the Department of Health in 1992 under the previous Government, which examined international evidence from Norway, Finland, Canada and New Zealand. Smee concluded:
The tobacco industry has consistently claimed that its advertising merely affects market share of different brands. I do not think that that is a credible position, and the evidence from Smee and others undermines it. The Select Committee on Health looked in detail at the industry's marketing strategies. It had access to evidence that had not previously been in the public domain, and that evidence was incredibly revealing. The former chairman of the board of the advertisers McCann-Erickson, which handled $20 million in tobacco account sales, said:
The industry claims that it only wishes adults to smoke. Let me accept that claim for the sake of argument. However, the evidence is that, regardless of that avowed intention, 14 and 15-year-old children see and react to the industry's advertising just as much as 16-year-olds. An interesting exchange of views took place in the Health Select Committee, where witnesses from advertising companies gave evidence. They were pressed to explain the distinction in an advertising brief, whereby they could pitch an advert at young adults and avoid it having an effect on 14 and 15-year-old children.
Despite their valiant attempts to make that distinction to the Select Committee, the people involved in the advertising pitches and briefsthe creatives involved in drawing up advertising campaignswere forced to admit, after being pressed intensely on the issue, that it would be difficult to provide advertisements aimed at young adults that did not also appeal to the fantasies of teenagers. Therefore, that evidence is extremely important.
Once one starts smoking, it is very hard to stop: the Royal College of Physicians' report, XNicotine Addiction in Britain", made it clear that nicotine addiction is about as addictive as heroin and cocaine. It is therefore a very serious issue.
We have already said that we reserve our right to bring in regulations in relation to displays of products. If we feel that manufacturers are beginning to abuse displays of products, we will not hesitate to introduce regulations to try to control that activity. I do not wish to be vindictive in pursuing the tobacco companies, but the history of the industry shows that the companies have been ingenious in finding other ways to advertise and promote tobacco products in places that have introduced restrictions. Those other methods include sponsorship and brand sharingor brand stretching, as it is increasingly called. The debate in the other place gave some interesting examples of brand sharing. There is, for example, a Benson and Hedges bistro in Kuala Lumpur, which is there to promote the Benson and Hedges brand. Before the bistro was opened, the Benson and Hedges market share had declined dramatically. After the bistro opened, the brand's trading position was secured. The person running the bistro said that he wanted to be Xsmoker-friendly" and that people associated cigarettes with a cup of coffee. He said:
Ms Blears: As a confirmed tea drinker, I am well aware of the health benefits of the antioxidants in tea and if coffee has similar effects, I look forward to seeing that evidence. My hon. Friend makes the serious point that tobacco is a dangerous and lethal substance that has led to the deaths of thousands of peoplein fact, of millions of people worldwide.
Baroness Jay gave some interesting examples of the use of cartoon characters to promote cigarettes in the United States. Joe Camel, a character promoted in connection with Camel cigarettes, had a high recognition factor with young children. By the age of six, children recognised Joe Camel as much as they did Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. That is very worrying in relation to the provisions on brand sharing and brand stretching.
We have also introduced consultation on the transitional arrangements for sponsorship to ensure that once advertising is outlawed the money does not go on extensive and glamorous sponsorship arrangements.
Some hon. Members have raised concerns about the ability of companies to continue trading in what are legal products, but the Bill does not compel people who want to carry on smoking to stop. Smokers will continue to be free to contact suppliers and request information about the products available. It would not be right to allow suppliers, even specialist tobacconists, to send out tobacco advertisements to people who had bought tobacco products from them in the past when many of those people are likely to be among the 70 per cent. of smokers who say that they want to give up. We want to ensure that those people are not bombarded with regular advertisements so that every time that they resolve to give up they are undermined by the next lot of glossy leaflets and special offers that come through the post to entice them to carry on smoking.
The issue of corporate sponsorship by tobacco companies has been raised on several occasions. The Bill does not prevent a tobacco company from giving money to support an event or activity, as long as the tobacco company's products are not given any promotion in return. If a tobacco company wishes to support the ballet, the opera or other artistic activities, it will be entitled to do so, as long as the purpose or effect is not to promote its tobacco products. It is conceivable that some advertisements linked to the corporate sponsorship of events could have the effect of promoting tobacco products even if they do not mention the name of specific products. If that does happen then the parties involved might be liable to be prosecuted under the Bill. Companies will need to be vigilant about the kind of corporate sponsorship that they undertake in the future.
It has been suggested that the Bill will impede the freedom of the tobacco industry to develop products that are less harmful to health. However, we have seen what happened in the past when people were encouraged to smoke particular brands on the basis that they were light or mild. We are supporting action to outlaw those terms, because experience has shown that they were not helpful and that the best way to confront the health risks of tobacco is to stop smoking. Descriptions such as Xlight" or Xmild" did encourage people to take up those products. Descriptions of products as Xlow tar" made people think that they were safer and less harmful.
Experiments showed that if the smoke from those cigarettes was extracted by a machine, it was less harmful, but people who smoked them changed their smoking habits. They would inhale more deeply or cover up the ventilation filters on the cigarettes to ensure that they got an amount of nicotine that maintained the drug in their system at the level to which their bodies were accustomed. People might have been smoking lower tar products, but the way in which they smoked them meant that the harmful effects on their health were just as great. Indeed, the adoption of low tar products often meant that people made no effort to give up. That marketing was, therefore, more harmful than helpful.
If new tobacco products appear which are genuinely less harmful than those now available, we will consider how they should be marketed, but it would be wrong to give the tobacco industry carte blanche to market them
The Bill is part of our broader strategy to tackle smoking. Smoking is the biggest cause of early death in this country. It causes one in seven deaths from heart disease and 85 per cent. of deaths from lung cancer. It causes cancer of the mouth, the larynx, the oesophagus, the bladder, the kidneys, the stomach and the pancreas. It is one of the principal causes of the health gap between rich and poor. Some 120,000 of our fellow citizens die each year from smoking-related diseases. The loss and misery is shared by their loved ones. Those are needless deaths caused by an industry that hides the truth from consumers.
Tobacco is the only legal product that kills one in two people who use it. The Government are determined to tackle this epidemic. That is why we have made a commitment to reduce the number of smoking-related deaths. That is why we have introduced the best smoking cessation services in the world. And that is why we will ban tobacco advertising and promotion. I call on Members from both sides of the House to join us to support this Bill which will help to save lives.