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Cigarette Manfacturing Industry

Volume 889: debated on Thursday 10 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement on recent discussions with the cigarette manufacturing industry.

On 17th July 1974 I made a number of detailed proposals to the industry with a view to securing its voluntary agreement to new measures designed to bring home to the public the very serious dangers to health of cigarette smoking. The industry reported its response to me at a meeting in February and there have been further meetings since then.First, I proposed that the tobacco industry should voluntarily contribute a sizeable percentage of its total expenditure on promotion towards public education about the danger to health of smoking.The industry does not reveal its promotional expenditure, but in 1974–75 we estimate that expenditure on Press, poster and cinema advertising in the United Kingdom was about £15½ million, on sponsorship between £2 million-£4 million and the value of gift coupons over £50 million, which is, of course, reflected in the price of the cigarettes. The total figure for promotion in 1974–75 was probably therefore around £70 million; health education expenditure at national level on smoking in the United Kingdom was only £330,000. The industry, I regret, decided to reject the proposal for a voluntary contribution.My second proposal was that the advertising of cigarettes in cinemas be abolished. The industry offered in February to withdraw advertisements from "U" films, but as these represent only a small proportion of films and children may see "A" and "AA" films I have asked the industry at the minimum to extend its withdrawal to these films also.My third proposal was that tighter control be exercised over the way in which sponsored events were used by cigarette manufacturers to promote their products. In particular, I asked that names of brands of cigarettes should not be given to sponsored events or shown on racing cars, since this circumvented the ban on television advertising. I regret that the industry is not yet ready to agree to stop using brand names in this way.My fourth proposal was for a speedy conclusion to the discussions that have been going on for some time on the showing on cigarette advertisements and packets of the tar yield of the brand. Since July, agreement has been reached on showing tar yields on Press and poster advertisements within five broad groups ranging from "Low" to "High", but no progress has been made on the inclusion of the tar group on packets.My fifth proposal related to the health warning and was that the position on the packets should be changed and put on the flap so that it would be seen more easily and that the wording of the health warning on packets and advertisements should also be changed. The industry said in February that a change in the wording would not be difficult if the amount of wording was the same but to change the position of the warning would mean a redesign of the whole packet and this would be a major, lengthy and expensive operation. I accepted that if we could reach agreement on a new position it should last for at least five years but as there had been no change since 1971 I felt that to change the position of the wording in 1976 was quite reasonable On 3rd March I wrote to the industry asking for agreement that from the earliest possible date both cigarette advertisements and packets should carry the same messsage as will be carried in future on the Department's posters and leaflets about tar and nicotine yields of brands of cigarettes. This message will be:DANGER: CIGARETTES CAUSE LUNG


I accepted that the industry would want the revised warning initially to be carried in the same space in cigarette advertisements and packets as the current warnings, but so far it has not agreed to this.

My sixth proposal was that gift coupons should be abolished or limited to brands with "Low" or "Low to Middle" tar yields; the proposal was rejected.

It is a matter of great regret to me and, I think, to all who are concerned about the real dangers to health which come from smoking, which currently accounts for at least 50.000 premature deaths a year, that the industry was not able to agree to any of the above proposals.

The industry has agreed that Press advertising of free samples should end and that control over the code of practice for the advertising of cigarettes should be taken out of its hands and exercised by the Advertising Standards Authority; the code of practice has also been clarified.