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Tobacco Products (Advertising)

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 28 November 1990

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11 pm

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 6071/90 on the advertising of tobacco products and the supplementary explanatory memoranda submitted by the Department of Health on 19 July 1990 and 26th October 1990.
The document proposes a system of statutory regulation of tobacco advertising in the press and on poster displays. The formal proposal was set out by the Commission in a draft directive published on 26 April, the main contents of which would achieve three purposes: first, it would require, by law, that all advertisements in the press and on posters should contain a health warning; secondly, it prescribes in article 3 that the content of the advertisement should simply be a representation of the package of the tobacco product; and, thirdly, it would require, again by law, that no tobacco advertisement should appear in a publication designed for distribution to a readership of under-18s.

Since the original directive was tabled by the Commission, some amendments have been proposed, particularly to article 3, which specifies that an advertisement could take the form of only a representation of a cigarette package. The effect of the amendments were described in the supplementary explanatory memorandum dated 26 October which was issued by my noble Friend Baroness Hooper.

I should like to give the House a few more details of the revised approach, which is now proposed on an informal basis, to the type of advertisement that would be allowed under the proposed formulation. The revised draft—it is not yet an official proposal from the Commission, which is why it has not been presented formally to the House—would require that advertising should comply with the following rules: first, that it should not be aimed specifically at young people nor depicit heroes, personalities or situations likely to attract young people; secondly, it should not link the consumption of tobacco products with physical prowess; thirdly, it should not create the impression that the consumption of tobacco products contributes to social or sexual success; fourthly, it should not claim that tobacco products have therapeutic qualities or that tobacco is a stimulant, a sedative or a means of resolving personal conflicts; fifthly, it should not present abstinence or a desire to stop or moderate the consumption of tobacco products in a negative light; and, sixthly, it should not place emphasis on tar or nicotine content as being a positive quality of the product.

Those regulations would replace the requirement in the original draft that a tobacco advertisment could take the form of only a representation of the cigarette package. If the Commission tabled that alternative formulation of article 3, the revised draft directive would much more closely correspond with the approach of our voluntary code on tobacco advertising.

I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend because I am sure that we realise the significance of his points about the way in which advertising should be presented. Does he agree with me about the fundamental flaw in the original and the amended drafts? It is not so much the question of how advertising should be presented in different countries as the fact that it is nonsense to suggest harmonisation of advertising when the ownership and operation of tobacco companies varies from a free enterprise economy in one country to a Government monopoly in another.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I shall deal with that specific point later. I have described the amendment to the original draft directive which it is expected the Commission may be willing to table. It would move from a system of regulation based on describing the type of advertisement that is acceptable towards a system of describing the type of advertisement that is unacceptable, which more closely corresponds with our voluntary code. To the extent that the revised form of article 3 brings the draft more closely into line with our voluntary code, we regard it is an improvement, but substantial objections to the Commission's approach remain.

The first objection to the Commission's approach is simple and is based on the Government's doubt about the basis on which the Commission is introducing the proposal. One need not be committed to any dogma to ask, if someone wishes to impose a new obligation or to restrict an activity, on what legal authority that regulation is being introduced. The Commission claims that the directive is being introduced on the basis of article 100A of the treaty, which is directed towards removing barriers to trade and the completion of the internal market.

I do not believe that the Commission can, in truth, maintain the argument that the directive is based on article 100A and can be justified on those terms. That claim is bogus for two reasons. First, even if the directive is accepted and implemented throughout the Community, we will not have created an internal market with the same rules in force throughout the Community. The directive specifically envisages the possibility of two different regimes governing tobacco advertising—the possibility of a ban in some countries and regulations that satisfy the directive in others. It would not create an internal market. On that basis alone, the Commission's claim to justify the directive under article 100A fails.

Secondly, one must be pragmatic and ask whether the Commission can justify introducing a directive under article 100A to remove barriers to trade in terms of any improvement in trade that would follow. We are talking about a directive which is designed to remove a supposed barrier to trade in the printed word. To justify that approach, the Commission would have to show that there was an existing barrier to trade, based on different advertising practices covering tobacco products.

I do not believe that the Commission could show that that is a significant inhibition on the trade in printed journals. The United Kingdom press circulates freely in Italy, although there is in force in Italy a total ban on the advertising of tobacco products. It is not an effective inhibition of trade in the Community. Even the most convinced supporter of the Commission's approach must recognise that by far the most important inhibition of trade in the printed word is not different advertising regimes, but the fact that most Community countries speak different languages from their neighbours. I do not think, therefore, that the Commission can justify the proposal on the ground that it removes trade barriers—which is the only basis on which it can justify introducing the directive under article 100A.

I am forced to conclude that the real reason has nothing to do with removing trade barriers, and nothing to do with the substance of article 100A, but is connected with the Commission's ambitions relating to health and social policy. Let me explain why the Government do not accept its approach. First, the Commission clearly has no competence to direct any member state on issues of health and social policy: indeed, it has said explicitly that it embraces the principle that it calls subsidiarity, and recognises that health policy is properly a matter for national rather than Community decision-making. But even if we put that argument aside and consider the issue on its merits rather than the legalities, the Commission's approach to introducing statutory controls on tobacco advertising is misconceived. I believe that the evidence shows this country's voluntary arrangement to achieve health policy objectives more effectively.

One reason why our approach is more effective is that all the principles that would restrict the type of advertising that would be allowed under article 3 are already in force under our voluntary code, and we also apply additional restrictions. It would be impossible to design a statutory framework that would allow the introduction of such restrictions in the legalistic language that the statute requires. We have, for example, an agreement with the industry that poster advertising should be allowed only up to 50 per cent. of the 1980 level of spend. The industry has agreed to impose that restriction on itself; but I challenge anyone to frame it in language that would satisfy parliamentary draftsmen or, indeed, the House were it to be submitted as a legislative proposal.

In the same terms, our existing voluntary code restricts the right—that is, the industry voluntarily restricts its own right—to advertise tobacco near schools. Those are two examples of self-imposed restrictions that are not encompassed in the statutory code suggested by the Commission.

I do not want to rely entirely on assertion. Let us examine the record of the different approaches to tobacco advertising in the Community. I do not think that it is merely coincidence that the two Community countries that have achieved the biggest reduction in cigarette consumption over the period between 1975 and 1987 are two of the countries that tackle the problem with voluntary agreements. Over those 12 years, the United Kingdom experienced a 29 per cent reduction; the Netherlands, which also operates a voluntary agreement, experienced a reduction of 41 per cent.

That is the record of voluntary agreements. However, not one of the four countries of the Community which have imposed or proposed a ban on advertising or consumption recorded a fall in consumption. In all the four countries there was growth in consumption over the four years when we saw a 29 per cent. reduction and the Dutch saw one of 41 per cent. Over the same period consumption increased by 7 per cent. in Portugal, 5 per cent. in France, 8 per cent. in Italy and 11 per cent. in Spain. Track records do not support the assertion of those who suggest that the more heavy-handed legalistic approach is a more effective way of securing our health policy objectives.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) suggested, there is an interesting correlation between the four countries to which I have referred. Each one has imposed a ban on advertising, or proposes to do so, but each has an effective state monopoly of production.

There is no local production that is not state-owned. The evidence shows that a total ban is ineffective, and the fact that such a ban is imposed or proposed only in countries where cigarette production is effectively a state monopoly must raise questions about the bona fides of the basis on which their Governments support a legalistic ban on advertising.

At the Council of Ministers meeting next Monday we shall oppose the proposals, even if they are submitted in their amended form. First, we do not believe that they can be justified as measures to liberalise trade. We do not accept that any inhibitions to trade arise from the printed word. We do not believe, therefore, that the Commission has competence to tell us, on health policy grounds, to introduce the restrictions. Leaving aside competence, we believe that the evidence demonstrates that we have been presented with an undesirable way of approaching the problem on health policy grounds.

11.18 pm

The Minister's speech was disappointing, because it did not sound in any respect like one that should be made by a health Minister. We are, of course, dealing with an important issue of public health. The Minister said that one of the key considerations is the legal authority that the directive purports to introduce. Surely the key consideration is whether it is a good idea to restrict or even ban the advertising of tobacco. It is not one of constitutional niceties, which is what detained the Minister and concerned him throughout his speech.

The Minister referred to why other European countries support the measure and sought to pick holes in their records. I have two criticisms on that score. First, the question for us is whether it is a good idea to support the measure. Secondly, I question the relevance of relating advertising and smoking levels in a vacuum. Surely we should relate also price and health education, for example, which have an effect on the consumption of tobacco. I think that the Minister trivialised the complexity of the factors that bear on whether people smoke tobacco. It might have suited the Minister's case, but it is a pity that he began the debate on that basis.

This is not—or should not be—a party political matter. No doubt some Opposition Members disagree with our party policy on this matter and no doubt many Conservative Members who are waiting to speak will disagree with the Government's approach. The most important aspect of the directive is that it would replace the United Kingdom voluntary agreement with a legal system of controls. It does not go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction.

We need to move on from the constitutional niceties and remind ourselves of the background to the directive. The dangers of smoking have not always been known. One can go round hospitals and see people who are now terminally ill because they became addicted to smoking when tobacco was given out as part of their naval rations. One can also meet people with chronic bronchitis who remember being given a cigarette at the surgery by their general practitioner to help them to relax.

Although the dangers of smoking have not always been known, they are known now. The trouble is that public policy lags behind scientific knowledge and public opinion on this issue. Both smoking and non-smoking parents alike do not want their children to begin to smoke and 80 per cent. of those who currently smoke have tried to give up and would like to give up. I do not know who the Minister thinks that he is defending with his constitutional niceties except the tobacco industry——

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker— [Interruption.] I shall give way, but it is against my better judgment.

The hon. Lady speaks like a lawyer, as though only things that are written down in law work. Did she hear my hon. Friend the Minister say that cigarette smoking in this country has been declining faster than in at least four other Community countries? Did she hear his example of how the voluntary agreement led to a reduction in tobacco advertising rather more quickly than is likely to be the case with the directive? We must face up to the question whether we are talking about an effective reduction in both the promotion of cigarette smoking and the levels of cigarette smoking.

Yes, I heard what the Minister said, but the only factor that he seemed to be taking into account in comparing different countries' records in reducing the consumption of tobacco was the different ways in which they dealt with advertising. But there are many other variables. Advertising is only one piece of evidence and should not be taken in isolation.

We have nothing to be complacent about. Yes, we have reduced tobacco consumption and smoking in this country, but it is still an immense public health issue, a killer and a disabler. I do not want to hear Conservative Members saying how great our record is when our national health service hospitals are full of people who are disabled and dying because of smoking. I want to hear concern and to see some action, not complacent self-congratulation and criticisms of other countries because they are not doing as well as we are.

I should like to illustrate the way in which the scientific evidence has built up. A turning point came in 1962 when the Royal College of Physicians published its "Smoking and Health" report which, for the first time, surveyed the evidence. Its second report, "Smoking and Health Now", was published in 1971. In 1976 Professor Sir Richard Doll and Mr. Richard Peto published the results of their 20-year study of nearly 35,000 doctors' smoking habits. One of their major conclusions was that one in every three smokers will die as a direct result of smoking.

I hope that the Minister will bear with me as I run through the evidence; as he failed to put on the record the seriousness of the issue, I feel that I must do so, despite the lateness of the hour. In 1977, the third report of the Royal College of Physicians was entitled "Smoking or Health". It had become clear that one could either smoke or be healthy. The fourth report of the Royal College of Physicians, "Health or Smoking", introduced the question of coronary heart disease-related deaths and smoking, and stated that 20 per cent. of coronary heart disease deaths were related to smoking. In 1988 the fourth report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health —the Froggatt report—raised the question of passive smoking—people whose health suffered not because they were smokers themselves but because they inhaled other people's smoke. It said that several hundred of the current annual total of lung cancer deaths in the United Kingdom could be attributed to passive smoking.

The roll call of death and disability is clear for people to see. I suggest that all hon. Members who intend to oppose my view that the Government should support and, indeed, strengthen the directive should go round their local hospitals. They should go into wards where there are premature babies who are under weight because their mothers have smoked, bronchial wards where people have an oxygen mask over their face because they can hardly breathe, wards where people have had heart operations or people are waiting for the amputation of a second leg, having had the first leg amputated already because of the circulation problems caused by smoking. Hon. Members should go to their local hospitals and see the damage being done. Then they should not rule out anything that could help in the war against tobacco.

I shall run through the roll call of death and disability in this country as a result of smoking. At least 110,000 people die prematurely every year from diseases caused by smoking. That is 300 every day. Smoking costs industry about 50 million working days a year. Some 60,000 to 75,000 people each year have heart attacks because of smoking. Some 320,000 people a year consult their doctor about angina. Around 25 per cent. of that will have been caused by smoking. That is 80,000 people. Of the coronary by-pass operations performed each year, 3,000 are attributable to smoking. The total number of new lung cancer cases in the United Kingdom in the latest year for which figures are available was 30,345. At least 90 per cent. of lung cancer cases were caused by smoking. That is 27,310 new cases of lung cancer attributable to smoking. There is also the incidence of cancer of the pharynx.

The most recent figures for amputations show that 5,780 amputations were performed, of which 3,699 were due to peripheral vascular disease. Medical opinion now accepts that 90 per cent. of peripheral vascular disease is caused by smoking. It is an individual tragedy for each person whose health suffers in that way, but it is also a tragedy for the national health service because it is a drain on its resources and represents a failure of our public health policy. As I said, I went round Dulwich hospital a while ago with a consultant. He reckoned that about 20 per cent. of all the beds in the hospital were occupied by people with smoking-related diseases. It is a terrible position.

Of course, advertising controls are only one measure which affects the rate of smoking in any country. There are others. The Government have dragged their feet behind the medical evidence and public opinion on not only advertising but health warnings, tax and particularly policy on children and smoking. The idea that somehow one can distinguish between magazines that are directed at children and those directed at adults is wrong. In any household one can see an issue of Fast Forward or some other children's magazine containing all the "Parents Against Tobacco" anti-smoking message and on the same table, written in equally accessible language will be Woman or another magazine which is likely to contain an advertisement for cigarettes.

Is the hon. Lady saying that she is against the proposition that we should treat magazines directed at children as a special risk requiring special controls over and above the controls on the printed word generally?

Before the Minister jumps to conclusions about my answer, he should listen to me. This is a serious issue. I am saying that we should have a ban on tobacco advertising in all magazines. I accept, of course, that if one allows such advertising in magazines, it should at least be exempt from children's magazines. That solution, however, does not go far enough.

No cigarette advertising has been allowed on British television since 1965, yet 64 per cent. of children aged between nine and 15 claim to have seen such advertising on television. They are, of course, referring to sporting events and competitions that are sponsored by tobacco companies. Such sponsorship should cease.

Toy cars sold on street stalls have Marlboro written all over them. They are an exact replica of a sports car. a car which a child will recognise from television coverage. A child will play with such a toy and come to recognise the logo on the cigarette packet.

The tobacco industry spends more than £100 million a year on advertising alone, which does not include the sponsorship of sporting events, but such sponsorship is also advertising. Why else would the tobacco industry provide it? It does not do so out of the goodness of its heart, but because it knows that that sponsorship sells cigarettes. The Government spend about £5 million a year on anti-smoking education. It is ludicrous that the Government should spend taxpayers' money on such education while allowing the tobacco industry to spend £100 million on advertising.

All the leading national and international medical and health organisations that have studied the problem of smoking have called for a total ban, enforced through legislation, on the promotion of tobacco. I support that. Tobacco advertising undermines national, public health education—of course it does. The health education authorities recognise that.

It is important to cut out all tobacco advertising and promotion, because it influences people to smoke. The tobacco industry would not spend such large sums of money if that was not the end effect. Tobacco advertising is also one of the factors behind the uptake of smoking by children.

To allow advertisements for a product that kills one in four of its users is unethical. We now know about the death toll and therefore we have a moral obligation to ban tobacco advertising. Moreover, to promote the use of a product that has proved to be harmful to non-users as well as users is absolutely unjustifiable.

I am disappointed that the Under-Secretary has reiterated the point made by his colleague in the Department who said:
"The UK Government continues to believe that the best way to control tobacco advertising is by means of voluntary agreements."
What absolute nonsense. The evidence produced by the Under-Secretary is bogus, paper thin and designed to suit his case. No one agrees with him except the tobacco industry. He should appreciate that his stand is opposite to that held by all public health organisations, including the World Health Organisation, the medical profession and health educators. He has some support, however—that of the tobacco industry. It is a sad day when a Minister responsible for health argues the case for that industry.

Voluntary agreements have been abused by the tobacco industry and, by their very nature, they are subject to an element of negotiation. The industry will never agree voluntarily to restrictions that would put it out of business. It will never agree to anything that seriously threatens its sales. The Government go along with that, which is irresponsible.

The scale of the tobacco problem and the determination of the industry mean that we must have a tobacco control policy that is comprehensive and implemented by legislation, not by negotiated voluntary agreements. We are committed to that and urge that commitment on the Government.

We also want a ban on tobacco advertising, the ending of sports sponsorship by tobacco companies, the promotion of wider use of non-smoking restrictions in public places and the creation of a new right to a smoke-free environment at work. There is strong evidence from the past three decades that the single largest factor in any variation in the consumption of tobacco is a change in its real price, and the most powerful contribution to reducing consumption would be a real increase in excise duty. Conversely, a fall in the value of excise duty is liable to undo any achievement in health education. The British Medical Association has been critical of the Government's policy on tobacco, under which, although the excise duty rose during the early 1980s, it has fallen 9 per cent. since 1986 and is now about the same level as in the mid-1960s.

Although we are discussing only one part of the problem of smoking—advertising—the next time that the Minister comes to the House he must give us a sense that the Department of Health has an anti-smoking strategy, complete with target, and he wants to use advertising as one of the weapons in that strategy. He must take the problem more seriously. It is no good wishing that people would not smoke; we must have targets for a reduction in smoking. Just as we must have defence industry diversification to save jobs, we must have tobacco industry diversification. We want not just to reduce the menace of smoking, but totally eliminate it.

11.36 pm

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his excellent exposition of the Government's view. I am sorry that I interrupted him because had I not done so he might have been even more effective in putting forward the case, which completely demolished everything that the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) had prepared to say. I do not know how the hon. Lady can call the official figures which the Minister gave bogus. If they were bogus, that would be a serious matter, but they were obviously not bogus—the word that the hon. Lady used. They simply did not accord with her previously held prejudices, and so she dismissed them.

The sweeping statement with which the hon. Lady opened her speech, by saying that we were discussing a health matter, was also misleading. It is not only a health matter, but an employment matter and, most of all, a matter of political and legal freedom. We are deciding whether a directive from Europe is justified, whether it would be effective if it were justified and, even if it were effective if it were justified and, even if it were effective, whether the difficulties involved would make it worth while for Her Majesty's Government to accept the principle.

As the report clearly shows, we would need legislation to deal with the directive, and the moment we have legislation we lose the tobacco industry's voluntary co-operation. I am a non-smoker and so I have no remit for the tobacco industry, but I believe that we have something in this country that is extremely valuable—a dialogue and an agreement with the tobacco industry, which has shown itself able to respond to changed circumstances. The moment we introduce a rigid legislative framework, the tobacco industry, like any other industry faced with legislation, will operate closely and exactly within the parameters of the legislation.

Is the hon. Lady really suggesting that whenever circumstances change or there is a new idea in marketing we should change the legislation by taking it through the House? That would be hopelessly time-consuming and we would always be trailing after the event. The advantage of a voluntary agreement is flexibility, so that if a new situation arises the matter can be discussed.

I do not want to take up the hon. Lady's arguments about the merits of advertising or sponsorship, which are for another occasion. However, I emphasise what I said in my intervention, that it is unreasonable for countries that operate a state monopoly on tobacco products to seek to restrict the advertising system in countries that have a free market economy. The purpose of advertising in such an economy is entirely different from methods of promotion in countries with a state monopoly where there is probably no need for any advertising, even if the state were prepared to accept it.

The situation is even worse than my hon. Friend suggests. There must be a suspicion that the purpose of the advertising ban in the four countries that have a state monopoly on production is to keep out foreign competition.

My hon. Friend's comment is the key to the argument. We are debating the merits not of tobacco advertising but of a legislative framework instead of a voluntary agreement. It would be to our disadvantage to give up the good will between the Government and the tobacco industry by seeking to restrict sales to vulnerable groups. Such groups have a choice, but they need to be protected, especially at certain times such as during childhood.

No one is calling for advertising to be extended. In some countries there is an absolute ban on advertising while in others agreements such as ours with the tobacco industry might be more liberal. The directive's proposals do not go as far as some of our existing agreements. The directive contains no provision for a halfway stage because it seeks a total ban. We need to examine that carefully before reaching a decision on the issue. It is vital that we do not weaken our regime. I emphasise that I have no wish to see increased market penetration of cigarettes, and I certainly do not wish them to be sold to children or vulnerable people. The most effective way to deal with the problem is by devising a carefully planned and developed agreement with the tobacco industry that is flexible enough to meet changing circumstances.

11.48 pm

I normally try to leave tobacco on one side because it might confuse Auberon Waugh if I started to criticise smokers as well as those who engage in drink driving. The last time that I met him was at The Spectator parliamentarian of the year lunch two years ago. That lunch was held today and I was not invited, so I might be forgiven one small slip into this field. I do so partly because the European Community needs to learn to pursue effective matters and partly because I was mightily provoked by the speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman).

The hon. Lady constantly used the word "we". She is accompanied in the Chamber by a Whip, but there does not seem to be a great deal of interest among other Opposition Members. Perhaps she thought that she could not be trusted to speak by herself or perhaps her hon. Friends knew the sort of speech that the hon. Lady was likely to make. I am surprised at the absence of the Liberal Democrats.

I agree with the hon. Member for Peckham that this is a serious health problem. The consequences of smoking are appalling. It appals me even more to know that the growth in smoking is among women. We need to learn not that advertising has been aimed specifically at women—it has not—but that there is a false sophistication, rather like some of the hon. Lady's false arguments, that leads people to believe that smoking calms them down, just as socialism is supposed to calm people down, or that there are some other reasons to take up smoking.

People smoke for the same reasons as they drink-drive —it is socially acceptable. If we seriously want to go on cutting the amount of tobacco that is smoked, we should realise that we shall not achieve that with a lawyer's approach. It does not work. I do not argue that there is no place for the law, and I should not trust the tobacco producers always to do the right thing at the right time. That is not the way that life works. But we can ask the hon. Lady to bring in some facts occasionally. She is good at bringing in assertions, and when we debate other health issues she brings in individuals, and does so very effectively. That does not work when we are trying to get a further dramatic improvement in public health.

The European Commission must look to see what is happening in the different countries in Europe. That is what partnership is about.

I should like to see league tables of the different social groups, and how their smoking has been increasing or decreasing. That would provide a publicity focus, which would start to draw the attention of those who smoke to the fact that they are addicted. Most smokers give up only when they realise that they are addicted, not when they think that they can give up whenever they want to. We shall have to squeeze the tobacco companies out of sponsoring sport, and the sooner we have agreements on that, the better. It will happen far faster that way than if we rely on directives.

My hon. Friend the Minister, in one of his typically effective speeches, mentioned the intervention that matters. If monopoly suppliers of tobacco want to keep out competition, it is unlikely to be because they want to sell fewer products. If the Labour party has not learnt that monopoly socialism should have gone out over the period when my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was Prime Minister, it has not learnt much. The socialist Government of Spain has learnt far more from what Britain has done in the past 10 years than the hon. Member for Peckham has.

I hope that the Commission will start looking at the figures. Has it provided a league table of the amount of smoking per head in each country, or of the amount that smoking has dropped in each country? Has it learnt the lessons from the anti-drink-driving campaign in this country? I do not mind being associated with the reduction in road casualties for the rest of my parliamentary service. I remind the House of what we did. In 1986, we discovered that an estimated 2 million times a week, men drove after drinking above the legal limit. After two and a half years, that figure fell to 600,000. There had been a two thirds reduction with no change in the law, sentencing or enforcement and with a reduction in the amount of Government-funded advertising.

The change in the consumption of tobacco will not be so easy, because at least the drink suppliers were able to provide non-alcohol beers and low-alcohol beers. Sales of those went up from about £15 million a year to £250 million a year. That is worthwhile. It is important to monitor and find out how social groups are behaving, and we can move further on that.

The hon. Lady did not use it. She asserted that what other countries have done, which appears to be worse than what we have done, should be substituted for our approach, which appears to have worked. She is right to emphasise that most people are not aware of the consequences of tobacco smoking.

We should devote the time that would otherwise be directed to debating the competence of the European Commission in this sector—it is fairly well established that it does not have competence—and whether, if it did have the competence, its approach was the right one, and it is clear that it is not, to raising the consciousness of people, especially those among whom tobacco consumption is rising, and the women who look to the hon. Lady as an example, or a role model. She should work with us in the non-political way for which she has asked to get those people to realise that smoking is a menace to society. Giving up smoking means that it will not kill. It sets children a good example. If parents do not want their children to smoke, the best thing is for parents not to smoke. That is the way to make dramatic progress.

In four or five years' time, experts from the Commission and other European countries may come to see how we have achieved better progress by ourselves in a way that can be copied by others. I hope that we will also have the humility to go to the other countries that have done better than us, such as the Netherlands, and find out what we can from them. That would be a far more effective process. It is likely to empty some of the hospital beds and reduce family distress rather faster than relying on a legalistic approach.

11.50 pm

The proposed directive is expected to enshrine into United Kingdom law the current voluntary agreement with the tobacco industry, or at least to enshrine some parts of that voluntary agreement. That so-called agreement is an embarrassment, having been put together by the Department of health and the tobacco industry behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms.

It is only the industry and, almost apologetically, people in the Department of Health, who defend this method of controlling tobacco advertising as being effective. There are numerous examples of how the tobacco industry is able to bypass that agreement. We have only to look around us—in newspapers and on billboards—to see the portrayal of smoking as everything from macho and virile to chic and sophisticated. The image of the Marlboro cowboy is not dead.

As I understand it, the proposal would make it a matter of legislation that cigarette advertisements could not appeal to the young and link smoking with physical prowess or sex, or claim therapeutic qualities for smoking. The thought that those things could end up as matters for courts to decide—whether an advertisement for Marlboro that shows a black-clad, gun-toting motor cycle cop, astride his machine, a real example, suggests that smokers have more physical prowess—seems a long drawn-out nightmare. I am advised that the courts would not touch it and certainly would not wish to judge on such matters.

Even in the case of less clear breaches of the spirit of the rules, it is anathema for the Government to be officially blessing advertisements that present witty, clever images of smoking, the kind of images that win marketing awards for being so compelling. After all, images are what tobacco companies are all about. Tobacco companies are not selling smoking, they are selling an image of smoking. In enshrining the voluntary agreement in legislation, the Government would in effect be saying that it is legitimate to use such clever images.

The idea of putting the agreement into United Kingdom law would, therefore, only perpetuate an already discredited agreement with the tobacco industry. In fact, the directive itself is seriously flawed and, if introduced, would create a legislative limbo for tobacco advertising. In short, it would be bad law and it is extremely doubtful whether any court would be prepared to spend valuable time arguing whether the industry had broken the law.

The United Kingdom Government would therefore be entirely right to oppose the new directive, as other countries, such as Germany, and possibly the Netherlands, intend to do. I can quite understand the argument that any legislation on advertising is better than nothing at all because it breaks the mould of the voluntary agreement and makes further legislation—that is, a total ban—easier, and a total ban is something that all reasonable people must want, aim and work for.

However, there is no certainty that the current version of the European advertising proposal would bring the United Kingdom closer to a ban. Certainly, if it is bad law, as I believe it is, it would make a total ban more difficult and would enable the tobacco industry to say that it is difficult to enforce the law that we have, so we cannot dream of extending the law to a total ban. I would not want to give the tobacco industry another argument for doing nothing.

The directive is intended to control permitted advertising, but, as I have said, in reality such a law would not be enforceable. The only real solution—I am sure you will agree Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you are a very reasonable man—is to do what the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and other medical authorities have called for—to end all forms of tobacco promotion.

A recent survey of the United Kingdom's top 300 advertisers found that even they were in favour of a total ban on tobacco advertising—62 per cent. agreed with that proposition. Such a ban must embrace not only the advertising we see in print and on billboards but the more pernicious promotion of tobacco through sports sponsorship.

Just how pernicious it is was shown recently by the publication of a report on tobacco sponsorship of televised sport by the Health Education Authority, "Beating the Ban: Tobacco advertisements on BBC TV—A threat to our children's future health," which I recommend every right hon. and hon. Member to read. The HEA is not a shady organisation but is part of a Government Department.

That report found that, although cigarette advertising on television has been banned since 1965, 64 per cent. of children between the ages of nine and 15 claimed to have seen cigarette advertising on television. They had, in fact, seen sports events sponsored by tobacco companies—cricket, snooker, motor racing, tennis, and so on. Surprisingly, all that coverage is on BBC television. In 1987, ITV companies formally decided not to televise tobacco-sponsored sporting events.

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that only on BBC can those selling drink associate their alcohol with motor racing. I hope that those who read the report of this debate for the BBC will realise that the corporation ought to obey its guidelines—and certainly do nothing worse than ITV allows to advertisers.

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. The HEA report concludes:

"The BBCTV coverage of tobacco-sponsored sport appears to be in breach of the letter or the spirit of the 1987 Voluntary Agreement or exploits defects in the Agreement."
It cites three apparent breaches on the agreement, and adds:
"These apparent breaches should be investigated by the Monitoring Committee and appropriate action taken."
It details another six breaches of the voluntary agreement, and remarks:
"Action should be taken by the Monitoring Committee to review these apparent defects. The BBC and the European Broadcasting Union should be asked to examine these matters, to avoid broadcasting channels being used to promote tobacco."
Most damning of all is this conclusion:
"The extent of broadcasting of tobacco promotion images appears to be increasing and needs to be curtailed in the interests of health. The impression remains that the tobacco companies effectively control the televising of these programmes, whose aim appears to be to use BBC airtime to sell cigarettes."
That goes to show how useless and irrelevant is COMATAS, the committee that is supposed to monitor tobacco advertising and sponsorship, but half of whose members are from the tobacco industry itself, and without whose permission no report may be published and nothing done. The committee is useless anyway, because the agreement is voluntary and the committee does not have to do anything about breaches of it—and does not. We need to redress the balance in favour of health. The tobacco companies have had it all their own way for far too long. How can we possibly hope to compete when the tobacco industry spends an estimated £117 million each year on direct advertising alone in promoting its deadly products, when all the Government spend on anti-smoking health education is a total of £5 million. We must follow the lead of our colleagues in Europe and throughout the world and go further than the proposed directive, by banning all forms of tobacco promotion.

So often people say that it cannot be done. Of course it can—it is done in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We can also do it, if we are really serious about preventing 100,000 deaths each year, and saving more than £500 million of needless expenditure on NHS treatment.

I can do no better than to quote from the chairman of the Health Education Authority who was talking about the tobacco companies sponsorship of sporting events:
"The time has come to close this loophole in the regulatory machinery the Government has set up to protect children from tobacco promotion. This anomaly is damaging the Government's own laudable efforts to tackle the serious issue of children's smoking."
He goes on to mention the number of children who smoke, and says:
"there are disturbing signs that an earlier decline in smoking among children is not being maintained. This is why the Government, through the Health Education Authority, has just launched a five year programme to help children resist the pressures to smoke.
This programme is undermined by the promotion of cigarettes on the most powerful medium to which children are exposed. In surveys of children's attitudes to smoking, the sponsorship of sports and other events by cigarette companies is cited as evidence that the Government is not seriously concerned about the problem of smoking. 'If they really want to make us realise smoking is dangerous, why do they allow all this sponsorship' is a typical comment.
Children see things straight. We should be straight with them."
Please, let us be honest and go for a total ban. We can argue whether it is within the competence of Europe. We can have a ban without diktat from Europe. Whether this is the right directive to do it is a debating point. If we want a ban we could have a ban. We know the dangers of smoking. We know that people are influenced by advertising. That is why the industry goes in for so much sponsorship.

I sincerely believe that it is a great tragedy that we know the effects of smoking, but we are not doing enough to stop it. I urge my hon. Friend please to do something about it.

12.2 am

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) is quite right to say that if we want a total ban we can have one, and I shall return to that issue later in my summary of the debate.

I think that there are probably two things that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths), the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and I have in common. The first is that I suspect that all three of us are non smokers. Certainly, anyone who comes to see me in my office in the Department of Health will not be offered an ashtray. I have to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) that that is simply because I do not like the smell of cigarette smoke in my office, and if it is my office, I think that I am entitled to determine what the atmosphere is like.

Yes, that is right.

The second thing that we have in common is that I think that we all agree that the substance of this directive is a health matter. Therefore, it is not anything to do with the removal of barriers to trade around the Community, as the Commission is seeking to argue. It seems to me that the House has united on that this evening. It is clear that this is a health matter, which should be considered on health grounds. It has nothing whatever to do with alleged barriers to trade. The House accepted without demur that this is a matter to be determined here, and not as a result of leadership by the European Commission. In my view, it is clearly outside the competence of the Community. It is a domestic matter, which should be decided here and has nothing to do with article 100A of the treaty of Rome. The House has demonstrated unity on that view.

Our hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) usually raises the question of competence and he is not in the Chamber. Is that the reason for unity?

I shall delight in pointing out to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) that, even in his absence, we were able to agree on that aspect of this evening's debate.

It might be a long wait.

Having established that it was a health matter, the hon. Member for Peckham went on to ask whether it was a good idea. It must have been a rhetorical question, because she answered it by saying, "Of course it is." The difficulty with that is that it is merely assertion, not argument. With respect, she did not address the facts. The facts, as I sought to present them to the House, are that cigarette consumption has fallen in countries that operate voluntary agreements on the model that I have sought to defend, and the countries that rely on legislative restrictions have done less well than we have. The countries that have done least well are those relying on a total ban. One has to approach this on the basis of the evidence. If one of our public health objectives is to reduce cigarette consumption, is not it relevant to look at the experience of different Community countries? If cigarette consumption has fallen fastest—as is the case—in countries that have observed voluntary agreements and has risen in countries that have or propose a total ban, should not that at least inform our debate?

Is my hon. Friend saying that where there is no advertising of tobacco products people are more likely to smoke and that where there is advertising under a voluntary agreement they are less likely to smoke? That is the logic of what he is saying.

I am quoting the experience of member states. In every country that has or proposes a total ban on cigarette advertising, cigarette consumption has risen. In countries that have a voluntary code on cigarette advertising, consumption has fallen by a significant margin. The House should bear that in mind when it addresses this issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North suggested that a voluntary agreement is preferable to a legislative framework of restriction on cigarette and tobacco advertising. As he rightly said, a voluntary agreement is, by its nature, more flexible. It makes it easier to insist that those who are governed by it observe the spirit rather than purely the legal letter of it. Perhaps even more significantly, as he said, it puts the onus much more on the industry to satisfy itself that it is observing the spirit of the agreement that it has signed rather than believing that if it merely satisfies the letter of the agreement it has discharged its social obligation. Although one or two hon. Members have sought to suggest that the voluntary code has not been fully observed, the committee set up to monitor the code has expressed itself satisfied that, by and large, the conditions are being observed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North also rightly pointed out that we should remember that the countries in the Community that have or proposed a total ban on cigarette advertising are the countries that have a state production monopoly. Four countries have or propose a ban and the same four countries have a state production monopoly. We should not simply dismiss that as a coincidence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) said that we should take seriously the public health objective of reducing cigarette consumption. He rightly pointed out that it is a women's health issue as well as a general public health issue because cigarette consumption is particularly concentrated in the female population. My hon. Friend is right to bring that fact to the House's attention. The Government take seriously the public health objective of reducing cigarette and tobacco consumption and the number of unnecessary deaths caused by it. We take seriously the need to draw to the attention of anyone contemplating using tobacco the health hazard that any smoker runs. That is an entirely legitimate objective of a Government in a free society. If we set ourselves an objective, we must surely require that we take effective action to meet it, not action that satisfies an untested assertion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) at least agreed with me that if the directive were accepted it would lead to bad and unenforceable law. He was therefore with me in opposing the directive at the Council of Ministers meeting next week. I am grateful for his support on that.

My hon. Friend argued the case for a total ban on cigarette advertising, which I do not accept. Evidence suggests that such a ban is not effective in reducing cigarette consumption and a total ban on advertising and sports sponsorship would lead to an ever more ingenious system of evasion and of bringing the brand names of cigarettes and smoking products into the public arena. It would not achieve the purpose of denying producers of smoking products access to brand recognition. If that is my hon. Friend's purpose, he cannot design a legislative ban that would achieve it.

I emphasise that the Government accept that public health education is a proper responsibility of a Government in a modern society. We take that seriously and we shall take the effective steps necessary to discharge it. In the context of tobacco advertising, that obligation is best discharged by a voluntary approach that limits the scale of tobaco advertising to an acceptable minimum. That is the approach that we have adopted and will continue to adopt, which is why we shall oppose the directive in the Council of Ministers next Monday.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 6071/90 on the advertising of tobacco products and the supplementary explanatory memoranda submitted by the Department of Health on 19th July 1990 and 26th October 1990.

Welsh Grand Committee


That during the proceedings on the Matter of Education and Training in Wales, the Welsh Grand Committee have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it shall meet, and that, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meeting of standing committees), the second such sitting shall not commence before Four o'clock nor continue after the Committee has considered the matter for two hours at that sitting.—[Mr. Patnick.]