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I am still worried about the potential for inadvertent displays to a child following an attempt by a child, let us imagine, to request to see a particular brand of cigarettes, and that that kind of inadvertent breach of the law could attract a hefty fine even where the retailer wakes up to the fact of what is going on and does not sell the product. I hope the Minister will take on board that these penalties have to be proportionate to the damage done in that kind of situation.
However, I wanted to put certain remarks on the record, I wanted to ask certain questions, I am grateful to the Ministershe has probably gone as far as she can goand I think this is the right point to withdraw the amendment.
Earl Howe: My Lords, we come now to the overarching issue presented by this clause and to what is, undoubtedly the most difficult and argued over part of the whole Bill. I am no advocate of smoking and I am conscious of the apparent anomaly that, as a health spokesman for my party, I should be proposing the removal from the Bill of a measure which appears, on the surface, to be conducive to public health. I do so, however, in the complete conviction that this measure is misconceived and that it will do considerably more harm than good, and I shall almost certainly ask the House to express its opinion about it.
The Government have proposed that displays of tobacco products should be banned in all retail premises. They have done so for one main reason; they believe that tobacco displays are directly instrumental in the take-up of smoking by young people. Their case is that tobacco displays have become de facto advertisements. They pray in aid research published by Cancer Research UK and others, and they believe that a display ban will send out an important public health message.
I believe that the Governments position is wrong for two main reasons: the evidence base, and the likely damage that will be done to small shops. I have looked at the evidence base very carefully indeed, and I do not believe that a ban on the display of cigarettes in shops can be plausibly linked to the take-up of smoking by the young. Of the places around the world in which a display ban has been tried, Canada and Iceland are most normally cited. The province of Saskatchewan in Canada has had a display ban since 2002. In Saskatchewan, it is absolutely true that youth smoking has declined since the ban was brought in. The trouble is that the figures for the rest of Canada show that in provinces in which there has been no display ban, including provinces with quite similar characteristics to those of Saskatchewan, the rate of decline has been considerably steeper.
Youth smoking has gone down throughout Canada in the past few years; but in places such as Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, which until very recently had no display ban, the rate of decline in youth smoking has been much steeper than in places in which a ban has been in force. That fact makes it very difficult to conclude, even tentatively, that the display ban in Saskatchewan was responsible for the decline in smoking.
Iceland introduced a display ban in 2001. Various statistics are available, some of which suggest that there has been a decline in smoking prevalence among the young since the ban was brought in, but what tends not to be mentioned is that, simultaneous to introducing the display ban, the Icelandic Government did three other things; they put up the price of cigarettes, introduced restrictions on smoking in public places, and introduced a positive licensing
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A clear story is what Cancer Research UK maintains we have in the research that has been done into the link between brand awareness among young people and smoking behaviour. Noble Lords may have attended a presentation by Professor Gerard Hastings, which suggested that the causal link between displays, brand awareness and smoking was absolutely unarguable. I hesitate to criticise Professor Hastings, but I must. In the 1990s, the Department of Health commissioned two separate studies of their own into the reasons why adolescents smoke: one was by Elaine Goddard; and the other was by Clive Smee, who was then chief economic adviser to the DoH.
Goddards study was, and remains, the only longitudinal study in this areathat is, it followed the same students over three years in adolescence when they were likely to become smokers. It is one of the largest studies that has ever been done on adolescent smoking in the UK. Goddard found that the major predictors of whether an adolescent became a smoker are socio-economic; in other words, they are very largely to do with ones family circumstances. Importantly, she found that brand awareness was not statistically significant as a causal factor. Smees study confirmed that. He found that being aware of tobacco advertisements does not reliably predict becoming a smoker and that there is no statistically significant relationship between tobacco advertising and adolescent smoking prevalence. So the Department of Healths own research contradicts twice over the claim that advertising causes children to smoke; and if it is true of advertising then, a fortiori, it must be true of displays.
Where does Professor Hastings mention those two studies in the evidence that he presents? He does not. He omits them. I have to say that I am deeply troubled by that if what we are meant to be considering is a balanced and dispassionate analysis of the research. Moreover, the studies that he cites provide no evidence that anyone at all who participated in a study started smoking because of tobacco brand awareness or retail displays. All that Hastings reports is what he calls an intention to smoke at age 18. For many participants this involves being asked to project several years into the future and to say whether they will become a smoker. Hastings then takes these projections and links them to brand awareness, but that is where it ends: the research does not offer a single instance where one of the subjects has become a smoker because of their awareness of tobacco brands or displays. He assumes that if the adolescents say that they intend to be smokers in a few years time then they will be. The advice I have had is that social scientists routinely warn against this type of research. It is highly unreliable, because what people do is often at variance with what they say they intend to do.
But that is not all. The link that Hastings draws between tobacco display, brand awareness, prevalence and susceptibility to smoking has a confidence factor
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I turn to my second and equally serious reason for opposing this clausenamely the damage that it is likely to inflict on small shops. There are about 50,000 corner shops in the UK, and the organisations representing those outlets have told me of their acute worry that a point-of-sale ban on the display of tobacco will do serious harm to their trade. The level of concern is very high. A year ago, the Tobacco Retailers Alliance had 16,000 members. The figure now is 26,000. These shops depend on tobacco sales for a large proportion of their turnover. It is not a high-margin business; the point is that it creates footfall. People who come in to buy cigarettes typically buy other things as well, which carry a higher profit margin. If those people cease to patronise small shops, the effect on trade in those outlets could well be terminal.
It is all very well for people like Professor Hastings to say, as he does, that footfall will not suffer because smokers will still know where to go to buy their cigarettes. With due respect to him, he has never run a corner shop. If you talk to the shopkeepers, as I have, they will tell you that as much as 50 per cent of their turnover can come from passing trade. These are not customers who would know in advance that a particular shop sold cigarettes or their favoured brand of cigarettes. On the other hand, they will know that they can buy their favourite brand from the local supermarket. It will be easier to go elsewhere. The fear is that the all-important tobacco sales will migrate away from small shops and quite simply make them unviable.
I would say to your Lordships that these fears are not dreamt up from nowhere. In Iceland, since the tobacco display ban came into force, 30 per cent of small shops have closed. In Canada, where the display ban is now in force almost everywhere, dozens are closing every week. That means permanently closing. I have the figures beside me. In Ontario alone, where the ban was introduced only in June 2008, 765 convenience stores have closed permanently; that is 8.6 per cent of the total.
So, I do not think that it is any exaggeration to say that this measure massively threatens the existence of small shops. These shops often play a very important part in the life of local communities. The shopkeepers whom I have met have said to me that they regard this clause as the biggest threat that they have ever faced.
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None of us likes the idea of children smoking. I am sure that we would all approve of measures that were likely to make a real difference to it. But the policy here is not evidence-based. It is policy based on weak scientific data, and it is policy where the unintended collateral damage is likely to be unacceptable. For that reason it should be rejected. I beg to move.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, I am not going to repeat a word of what was said by the noble Earl, my colleague on the Front Bench, other than to agree totally with every word, and to hope that your Lordships have listened carefully to his contribution. I want to concentrate on one pointthe cost of implementing the clause. I had the privilege of serving on the Grand Committee. On 9 March at col. GC 394, the noble Baroness made it clear to the Committee, as was entirely appropriate, that she had been chair of the All-Party Retail Group before joining the Government and had worked for the Co-op. She went on to explain that the cost for the change was minimal and would be:
In other words, that is £120. The convenience stores viewed that figure with some incredulity. Furthermore, we on the Committee wondered why on earth anybody would take a quotation from a Canadian company when of course the change would have to be done in the UK.
Noble Lords have had representations from a large number of stores indicating that in their judgment the costs would be £1,500 to £2,000. We have on the record what the Minister said, and I think most noble Lordscertainly those of us who took part in the Grand Committeewill have received a letter dated 23 April from the Department of Health headed Frequently asked questions. Question 2 says that it is going to cost retailers thousands of pounds to remove displays. The Minister, in this case the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, signs this letter, which states:
of your Lordships House. However, all of a sudden, 4 Solutions in Canada woke up to what is happening. It has issued a statement pointing out that the individual
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That is a huge difference from what the Grand Committee was told. It was on the basis of what the Grand Committee was told that we have the clause before us. My question to the Minister is: was she totally misled by 4 Solutions, was she totally misled by ASH, or has she in effect totally misled the House? This is a serious point, as my noble friend on the Front Bench rightly pointed out. Here we are in a recession: 50,000 outlets have been affected by one of the key footfall creators, and the Government are facing costs not of £120 to implement the Bill but possibly the best part of £2,000, which comes out of their net profit. It is not a turnover point but a net profit. We are talking about a substantial amount of turnover to provide the figure. I hope that the noble Baroness has a good answer to this point. I am making a serious challenge to her. I am not alleging that she has misled the House, but I hope she has a good answer on whether the figure is £120 or closer to £2,000.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Howe I am no advocate of smoking. Until recently I was a trustee of Cancer Research UK. Before that, I was a member of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, which was one of two partners that joined in a successful merger. Cancer Research UK is the biggest cancer charity in the world, bigger than those in the United States or anywhere else. To sustain that, it has to raise over £1 million every working day. As a result, it performs world-class research. The commitment that scientists and fundraisers have, both those who are professionally employed and the volunteers and the management, is inspiring, as is the commitment of the public who support cancer research.
I resigned because I have taken on the chair of the Association of Medical Research Charities and I felt that there was a conflict of interest. Quite a while ago, I visited Finland researching community nursing. We were taken to a remote part of the country. It was a vibrant town, quite large, and in the middle was an enormous wood pulp processing factory. It dominated that community. It spewed out fumes and the noise was considerable. We said to our hosts, Why do you allow this enormous factory to dominate this area and do physical harm to your inhabitants?. They said, We thought a lot about it, and decided that it comes down to a balance of harms. We decided that employment is more important to the well-being of this community than the minimal effect that this can have on their physical health. Unemployment brings poverty, loss of self-respect, depression and mental illness, so it is more harmful to us to do away with this factory than to put up with the fumes and noise.
I tell that anecdote because this debate is a judgment on the balance of potential harms. Nobody can deny that smoking kills. Nobody can deny that it is better
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I am not opposed to a policy of attrition, especially if it is based on sound evidence. Indeed, I supported the banning of smoking in public places because the evidence was robust and the practice was affecting a lot of other people. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for mentioning in an earlier debate something that I did not know: what effect the ban had on the number of pubs that closed as a result. We now know that they are closing at a phenomenal rate. We do not know whether it is the smoking ban or cheap alcohol in the supermarkets, but every pub that closes is, on the whole, a tragedy for the local community. They are places where people want to meet, relax and have some enjoyment. They combat loneliness and depression in that community. They are part of the thread that holds the community together, as are shops.
In my community we have 2,000 people. We have fought really hard to keep the post office open, and we have succeeded. A few months ago, we fought really hard to keep our chemist shop open, and we succeeded. We keep a wary eye on the butcher, the baker and the two corner shops. They sell everything. They are our lastminute.com. More than that, they know us. They are not fearful to challenge would-be teenage smokers. They know the kids and the parents, on the whole. As my noble friend Lord Howe has said, they also get a passing trade. However, they are far more effective than the local supermarkets in challenging teenagers. Supermarkets simply process the shoppers who attend. What is more, we walk to our local shops. We do not pollute the atmosphere by having to drive. Our corner shops service particularly those who are old and infirm. They are part of a vibrant community that we need. We need an economic base if we are to support clubs, societies and everything from toddlers groups, and the lonely mothers who go there, to youngsters who are bored. We have Scouts and Brownies and all the rest of itand tea dances for elderly people.
Listening to the debates in Grand Committee, and reading the enormous quantity of briefing that we have had from all parties and talking to parents of teenagers who smoke, I have come to a conclusion based on evidence. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Howe for setting out the spurious evidenceat least not robust evidencewhich underpins some of the suggestions which have been put to us. In no way do I want to impugn the integrity of those who wish to ban the displays, but I believe that the evidence is rocky. I am not sure that banning displays will really make a difference. Parents tell me that their children rarely buy cigarettes over the counter and, if they do, they are pretty good at trading IDs. They are much more likely to get cigarettes passed around by friends. Sadly, sometimes it is their friends parents who buy the cigarettes or they use vending machines, which is another debate. Parents tell me that they feel that banning displays will not make any difference; in fact,
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On the balance of harm, I do not think that the banning of displays will have much effect, if any, on reducing teenage smoking but it will increase unemployment among shop owners at a time when we should cherish every single job. It will result in a poorer quality of life for those who rely on corner shops, and harm and increase the vulnerability of already fragile communities which we want to thrive and prospercommunities which we should value and cherish.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I oppose these amendments. If I were in any doubt about the Governments proposals, that doubt would have been blown away by the incredible lobbying which has poured on us on this subject. I have been amazed at the professional quality of some of the lobbying letters which I have received, beautifully set out and specifically researched, showing an amazing grasp of obscure political comments, targeting, in my case, all the Liberal Democrats in my office, sticky labels and all. What is it about these letters that reminds me so strongly of the best paid public affairs outfits? Excuse my cynicism. If I am wrong, then a small shopkeeper from Chiswick who wrote to me and my colleagues this morning has a very bright future at the very top of a public affairs agency. He need not worry about what happens on the loss of his business.
We know the damage caused by smoking. I hope that argument has moved on; all now recognise that fact, although sometimes I wonder. All apparently wish to ensure that children do not start smoking. We have heard about the research and different practices in different countries. We are extremely familiar with the technique of the tobacco industry in confusing and casting doubt on research, even on that of Sir Richard Doll. Like the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I heard the presentation of Professor Hastings and that of Dr Gilmore. They made very persuasive cases. If we were to accept that the case has been inadequately made, what of the counterargument that damage would be caused by agreeing to this proposal? Here the argument is that banning point of display would damage small retailers and make it expensive or even dangerous for them to adapt their shops. It is extremely clear that, as in Canada, the tobacco industry will cover the cost of adaptation, which itself is not great, as it still has the incentive for these shops to continue to sell cigarettes. It may be a cost to the industry, but that is hardly a factor that we should consider.
All the proposals for how this can be achieved have very clearly shown that adaptation can be done without danger to the shopkeeper. That was fully addressed in Committee. The industry has been assiduous in stirring up small shopkeepers. We know that the information given on the impact on shops is very alarmist and that, too, was fully answered in Committee. What is the balance here? Do we go for the public health precautionary principle or for the case put by the industry? I understand the discomfort of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on the position that he is in.
All the royal colleges, Cancer Research UK and myriad medical charities urge us to support the Government on this. On the other side, there is a campaign paid for and orchestrated by the tobacco industry, even if its involvement has had to be dragged from it against its wishes.
Smoking is an addiction. Our responsibility is to do all we can to protect children from starting to smoke in the first place. So for the sake of my kids and their peers, I will be supporting the Government on this.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, because I agree with every word that she has said. I am delighted also that she has brought us back to the fact that this is a health measure we are considering. This is not an economic argument about small shops but about whether the health of our people, and particularly the health of children and young people, is going to be enhanced by what the Government are proposing.
I too was convinced by Professor Gerard Hastings; I shall say more about that in a moment. But first, I want to declare an unpaid interest, as a member of the board of trustees of Action on Smoking and Health. I shall answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, at the end of my remarks.
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