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Tobacco Advertising

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that the code of practice for tobacco advertising makes adequate provision for advertisements contained in magazines given away free.

Is the Minister aware that High Life magazine, the in-flight magazine of British Airways, carries cigarette advertising with no Government health warning? Even if the company can dodge the Government code of practice, because of certain terms in the code, does it not have a moral responsibility, as one of our big national organisations, to ensure that that advertising carries health warnings? Will the Minister make sure that health warnings are included in future?

The answer to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "No". The present arrangements for the Advertising Standards Authority and the new voluntary agreement specifically are not meant for magazines such as the one that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. Such publications are designed basically for passengers who are not in this country. The advertisements are aimed basically at duty-free sales. Exactly like our predecessors, we do not intend to move on this matter.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the limit of bullying the tobacco industry had just about been reached, and that if Government pressure continues to be applied to the tobacco industry there is a real risk of the industry reaching virtual extinction, with the loss of many thousands of jobs at home and abroad?

In replying to my hon. Friend, I must make clear the appalling dangers that people run if they smoke. I think that that is accepted on all sides. The voluntary agreement that we were able to negotiate on this occasion is a substantial improvement on those that went before, and, in my opinion, the co-operation that we receive from the industry shows that it understands its responsibilities very well.

Has the Minister seen the grim figures published by ASH last week, which show that because of smoking 8,213 Scots will die and that a further 15,774 Scots will be admitted to hospital during the current year? In view of those grim figures, does the Minister accept that the time has come to do something more effective to discourage this expensive form of suicide?

The hon. Gentleman should not assume that a ban on advertising will reduce the amount of smoking. Finland, which banned smoking advertising in 1977, now finds that cigarette consumption is rising, whereas here it is declining.

Will my hon. Friend explain one thing? I accept that many things that human beings do to themselves are not very good for them, but why is it necessary to take these steps for cigarettes, when apparently it is not necessary for drinking alcohol or sniffing glue?

The difference is that there is a danger in smoking cigarettes, however few one smokes. There is no danger in sensible drinking.