Committee (5th Day)
I thought the Committee might welcome this. I am conscious that there has been some prolonged debate on one issue, and it might be helpful if I say a few words about timings before the Committee gets into the concentrated debate that it wishes to continue.
As it is, today is the last scheduled day for the Committee stage of the Bill, and proceedings in Grand Committee, as Members will recall, are limited fairly strictly to four hours. If Committee stage is not completed today, consideration will have to be concluded on Wednesday 11 March—in effect, that would be an additional day. My appeal to all noble Lords is restraint, as well as respect in debate.
Clause 19 : Prohibition of tobacco displays etc
Debate on Clause 19 stand part resumed.
Before other Members of the Committee rise to speak, I wonder whether we might deal with a particular matter arising from our adjourned debate last Thursday. During that debate the noble Lord, Lord Laird, stated on more than one occasion that small shop keepers in Northern Ireland were supportive of the proposal to ban point-of-sale displays of tobacco. He used that as an argument to suggest that small shop keepers in England who opposed the ban were isolated in their view—I hope I am not misrepresenting him.
Since last Thursday I have been contacted by two organisations representing smaller shop keepers in Northern Ireland: the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (Northern Ireland District). Both organisations emphatically repudiate the noble Lord’s assertion that Northern Ireland retailers have accepted the proposal to ban tobacco displays. In fact the NFRN says:
“Nothing could be further from the truth”.
In the light of that, would the noble Lord like to correct or possibly withdraw the statement that he made last Thursday?
I appreciate the noble Earl’s words. In the debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly that took place last Tuesday on this issue, a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Health Committee indicated that the Northern Ireland small retailers association, the one to which I referred, was supporting the effort to do away with the displays. Of the organisations that the noble Earl has talked about now, at least one has been in contact with me to indicate that it was opposed to the change because it would not make any difference. That is a rather odd argument—if it does not make any difference, why not let it go through?
It was well known that these issues were going to be debated in Stormont. If the organisations knew about that, why did they not come along and put their views to the health committee? If you read the debate, you will see that the Northern Ireland Assembly, without a vote and without any dissent, passed the Motion seeking to introduce at the first available opportunity the legislation to do away with displays.
These retailers in Northern Ireland seem to be extremely well informed about the debate that took place last Thursday. I am very pleased that there are small retailers in Northern Ireland who spend a lot of time reading these debates and are then able to send extremely interesting and detailed e-mails listing exactly what happened and who said what to which and for whom, although I do not know if that is very good for their trade. It is interesting that this Committee is having a heavy impact among the retailers of Northern Ireland, who are watching it with great concern.
I am quite prepared to accept that there are retailers in Northern Ireland who are opposed to this measure. However, my basic point sticks. I come back to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. Last Thursday, he mentioned that the retailers in Northern Ireland do things differently and that they are different. I do not understand that point. When I go into retailers in Northern Ireland I see that they have the same size of shop; they have customers, things on display and cash machines. The retailers in Northern Ireland look exactly the same as the retailers I find in the part of London where I live during the week. The only possible difference—and I accept there is a difference—between retailers in Northern Ireland and those in the rest of the United Kingdom is that Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to impose a total ban. We also have a land border with the Irish Republic, so we understand the effect of a ban in a place that is not very far from us. This is where I acknowledge the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. The retailers of Northern Ireland understand about removing the displays and the attack on smoking, especially for young people, which the Assembly has led in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government have led in the Republic, because they have had experience of it. That is the only difference that I can see, and I accept that it is a difference.
In a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Minister of Health said:
“The stark facts are that in 2007, almost 9% of children aged between 11 and 16 in Northern Ireland were regular smokers. These children are 3 times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their mid-twenties. In fact, the vast majority (77%) of adult smokers in Northern Ireland started in their teens. These are shocking statistics and it is clear we must address this issue urgently”.
I wonder what the noble Earl would like to do, if he and his party wish to remove this clause about displays. In what other ways will we stop people taking up smoking? How will we stop children taking up smoking? As I indicated on Thursday, the purpose of these displays is to catch young people.
Over the weekend I did an experiment in a supermarket in London. I stood beside the tobacco counter to see whether anyone who came to the counter asked the assistant if he was selling cigarettes, what type he was selling, whether he could recommend a brand, how many cigarettes were in a packet, what colour they were, and so on. I stood there until a security man took an interest in me, and I left immediately. However, not one customer did anything other than go straight to the counter and ask, “Can I have a packet of x, y or z?”. Could not those cigarettes be dispensed from another part of the counter? Could they not be dispensed from underneath the counter?
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I think that the point he is raising is one to which we will come in a later debate. We really ought to be mindful of what the Chief Whip said. We will have an extra day on this Bill. For goodness’ sake, let us try to make the arguments short, sharp and to the point. I hope the noble Lord does not mind the intervention.
No, I very much appreciate and acknowledge those remarks. However, this is an extremely important debate. I listened carefully to what the Chief Whip said, but it strikes me that if we need an extra day, we need an extra day. If we need an extra week, we will take an extra week. This is important. I had a heart attack two years ago and my consultant said to me: “Go nowhere where you are likely to be confronted with smoke—not passive smoke, not in the street—because you cannot take it. It is a threat to your existence”. I make no apology for being totally opposed to smoking and speaking passionately against smoking. I will use every opportunity to do so, at this and every other stage.
As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, mentioned me during his prolonged remarks, I should state exactly what happened. The noble Lord said:
“Why is it that the retailers of Northern Ireland support this ban? What is the difference?”.—[Official Report, 5/3/09; col. GC 370].—
that is, the difference between Northern Ireland and England. I sought to reply to that and said:
“My father used to live in Northern Ireland; it is a great place with great people. I welcome the fact that they are of independent mind and that they will do things in their way rather than in our way”.—[Official Report, 5/3/09; col. GC 375.]
In reports from other sources it would appear that retailers in Northern Ireland want to do it England’s way. So the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Laird, against me are misplaced.
While not wishing to elongate this debate, I want to put the record right. At col. GC 375 the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that, “Northern Ireland is different”. The issue is simple: do we or do we not wish the display clause to go through? Do we or do we not wish to take what happened in Northern Ireland as an example? It is not a case of talking about Canada or Iceland. Northern Ireland is mentioned in the Bill as an example of how to handle smoking; let us use it.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, raised some important facts about the statistics and evidence in this matter. Perhaps I may give the background to the statistics that I gave. I said that about 70 per cent of pregnant women under the age of 20 were smokers. That is from the Infant Feeding Survey 2005. In fact, 68 per cent of those women smoked before or during pregnancy and 45 per cent smoked throughout pregnancy. I thought that it might be helpful to the Committee to have the details of those figures.
I am grateful to the noble Earl for the research that he has undertaken. It is important that we bear the concerns of newsagents in mind, and he has identified a substantive problem with the evidence. Bans on tobacco displays are relatively new in origin and it is still difficult to be sure of their impact on both shopkeepers and children. A small survey of children in Saskatoon indicated reductions in smoking rates while the ban was in effect. When the ban was temporarily lifted the decline in smoking stopped, to recommence when the ban was reintroduced. The statistics produced by the noble Earl related to adults and adult smoking rates. I have not yet sent him these details but I will. I thought that he would like to be aware of them.
In my contribution last Thursday I referred to a speech in December 2006 by Geoff Good, the global brand director of Imperial Tobacco. It has been pointed out to me that I misinterpreted his speech when I reported him as saying that,
“new methods of maintaining sales and attracting young people to tobacco smoking must be devised”.—[Official Report, 5/3/09; col. GC 371.]
His actual words were as follows:
“The reason I’ve chosen L & B is that the UK is now a Dark Market. In 2003 we saw the introduction of the Tobacco Advertising & Promotions Bill, which effectively banned us from promoting all tobacco products and means there is no main media advertising, no point-of-sale advertising (apart from one A5-size notice)”—
I would question that—
“no direct marketing and no promotions. In this challenging environment, the marketing team have to become more creative”.
I agree that he did not mention “young people” or “children”, and I apologise for implying that he did. Of course, he would not have been so unwise. However, I suggest that the word “creative” could, in these circumstances, include the sort of prominent display at point of sale that we have been discussing.
I pointed out that the tobacco industry pays for these so-called gantries to be installed, and it is very unlikely that it would do so if market research did not show them to be effective in promoting sales. In fact, after the word “creative”, this piece goes on to say:
“We therefore decided to look at the pack design. Although Lambert and Butler was clearly the No 1 brand in the UK with a perfectly good design, given the limitations, in 2004 we decided to research a new version which would celebrate the fact that the brand has been on the market for 25 years. The research surprised us”.
I am nearly coming to an end. It continues:
“We looked at various alternative designs, and all the packs were rated very highly by smokers. However, the pack which became known internally as the ‘Celebration’ pack, was the winner—indeed it was the most positively received pack change we have had from consumers in the life of the brand”.
I realise that we are to have an amendment later on this very topic but, unfortunately, I shall not be present. So my occupying the Committee’s time now will save time later.
I think that we forget too easily some of the basic facts of this market. The situation now is that we are down to 21 per cent of people smoking; we are down to the lowest level of young people smoking, at 6 per cent; those in the 21 per cent do not all die from lung cancer; and certainly the rest of us do not die from passive smoking. There are 5,000-plus direct employees in the tobacco industry; 80,000 jobs are dependent on that industry; government revenue amounts to £9.9 billion; the huge amount of illegal imports costs the UK Government somewhere between £3 billion and £4 billion; and 25,000 small shops will be directly affected by this clause. Therefore, in my judgment, anything that we do in this Bill has to be proportional, evidence-based and rational.
I should like to pick up a few of the issues that, from my reading of Hansard, I do not think have been discussed already, and I have been here for the vast majority of this Committee. First, the powers to make regulations governing displays were provided in 2002 in the last Bill, in which many of us took part. There were consultations with trading standards following the regulations tabled by the Government, and in 2006 trading standards found that there was good compliance. There were also discussions about some amendments. However, what I do not understand, and perhaps the Minister will tell me, is why the Department of Health refused to take part in any of those discussions.
Secondly, the consultation on product display was flawed. Three options were in the original consultation paper put out by the Department of Health, but the only two that were considered were numbers 1 and 3—that is, maintaining the status quo or total prohibition. I do not understand why option 2 put forward by the department—the making of regulations to restrict displays—was totally ignored. That seems to me entirely wrong, and it is not just me who feels aggrieved by it. The code of conduct on consultations put forward by the present Government says—and it should be adhered to by all government departments—that all options should be considered.
The consultation was at further serious fault in not taking account of the large number of people likely to be substantially affected by the proposals on tobacco, particularly small-scale retailers, who, frankly, we all know are unfamiliar with the complexity and form of language in a consultation paper and did not find it accessible. Where accessibility is so limited, engagement beyond the printed word is considered by the new department of BERR to be a consideration to which departments should have regard.
These serious shortcomings of the consultation paper and process were brought to the attention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. It agreed that this was wrong but, as yet, we have had no further response from it. In short, there were most serious omissions and shortcomings in the consultation process and the paper. Frankly, there is no satisfactory remedy to that situation other than to reject Clause 19.
Thirdly, the results of the consultation, flawed as it was, seriously misrepresented the situation. I discovered that of the 90,000 responses, 49,000 came from Smoke Free North West and comprised written postcards or e-mails. Is anybody suggesting that that is real consultation? Perhaps we ought to look at who provides the money for these organisations. I further discovered that 79,000 out of 90,000 representations came from government-funded bodies. Therefore, it is not surprising that they responded as the Government wished them to. The Government provided the money for them to respond; they responded as the Government wished, and then they say there has been consultation. I do not believe that is genuine consultation. I do not believe that any Minister of any Government could stand up and say that that was genuine consultation.
So far I have seen no relevant and convincing evidence to demonstrate that the banning of product displays would lead to fewer young people smoking. Certainly, a display ban would have a serious impact on retailers, particularly small community shops and stores. The situation is very different in Canada. Any of us who have lived in Canada will know that you get modular stores in Canada, whereas there are very few small modular stores in the United Kingdom. It may cost only £300—as converted from the dollar rate when the consultation was carried out in Canada—to convert a gantry in Canada. However, if I wanted to change my daughter’s shop—thankfully, it does not sell tobacco or sweets; it is a cookware shop—I would get a UK shopfitter to give an estimate for changing a gantry or anything else. I certainly would not use—
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her patronage. She will know that there are hundreds of tiny little items on a gantry in the shop, most of which cost less than £10. If that is upmarket, so be it.
It is to be hoped that the Minister will give the Committee guidance on precisely how the relevant regulations governing the selling of a retailer’s legitimate tobacco products will be framed. I wish to spend a few moments discussing the illicit market, which I do not think anybody has addressed with the exception of my noble friend on the Front Bench, who did so relatively shortly. As I said in my opening remarks, we should be clear that Her Majesty’s Revenue is losing something like £3 billion to £4 billion a year through counterfeit tobacco products and illegal smuggling. Seventeen per cent of all cigarettes, and 59 per cent of hand-rolling tobacco, are estimated to be brought into this country illegally. Since 2000, something like £26 billion worth of such goods have come into this country. The appeal of the illicit products is obvious—the price. There is a 50 to 100 per cent price differential between the UK and the Continent. I am sorry to say that these illicit products are particularly attractive to young people. Why? If you are a student or a young person who has just started work, your income is restricted. Obviously, if you want to smoke, you buy from the cheapest source; and if the cheapest source is the local boot fair or the local environmental fair, that is where you will go.
In the last survey undertaken by Trading Standards North West, a large survey involving 11,000 14 to 17 year-olds, some 36 per cent claimed that they had bought cigarettes from an illicit trader, while 56 per cent had bought packets with a foreign language health warning—in other words, not duty paid, and they probably could not understand the health message either. So this is a very serious point, and it is no good the Department of Health suggesting that out of sight is out of mind because that presumption is totally incorrect. It needs to get its act together in this area because I am a great believer in public health. It is one of the reasons I came into politics at all, and certainly when I was leader of the London Borough of Islington, it was clear that public health is absolutely vital. This trade is totally undermining our public health policy, it will grow and grow with a display ban, and the Government need to be very conscious of that.
I conclude by saying that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, gave an extremely good précis of the situation in relation to the effects on competition, and I do not need to repeat a word of his other than totally to agree with him. With that, I end my remarks and hope that I have followed what the Chief Whip requested, and I look forward to listening to and hopefully getting some real, positive and clear answers from the Minister.
I should like to put a brief question to the noble Lord. I believe that I am correct in saying that he has some expertise in and experience of the world of marketing. Given that, does he think it possible that the prominent positioning of tobacco products in newsagents close to where children regularly buy their chocolates and sweets, so that they can clearly see the cigarette packets, is unlikely to influence whether children choose to smoke?
The noble Earl is correct that I have considerable marketing experience. He, along with all other noble Lords, will know that there is a damn great sign alongside the gantry stating that it is illegal to sell tobacco to people aged under 18. The first words to hit anyone looking at a cigarette packet on the gantry are “Smoking kills”, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is the primary communication made by the gantry, and if it is the right communication, I think that we can be well satisfied with aspects of the 2002 legislation. However, I do not believe that young people are influenced by it. They might find the new pictures a bit more fascinating than the old ones, because the graphics are extremely interesting, but the fact is that half of them will not understand what they are about. I would even question whether Members of the Committee would be able to diagnose what they were about if we had not put the explanations underneath. The primary message, usually to be found just behind the cash till, is that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to under 18 year-olds, while the two words “Smoking kills” are what is communicated to anyone who looks at the gantry.
There are three further reasons why Clause 19 should be rejected, over and above those advanced so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. The first is that during the passage through Parliament of the 2002 Bill, Ministers in both Houses said repeatedly that they were content with the way tobacco products were displayed at the point of sale, and how they are displayed has not altered noticeably since then. The second is that even the zealots, by which I mean above all ASH, have conceded that the evidence is shaky. Indeed the ASH Daily News wrote that,
“it is not possible to definitely claim causation at this stage”.
The split infinitive does not detract from the validity of that admission.
The third reason is the valuable contribution made last time round by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding. She took the trouble to investigate how young people aged between 14 and 17 or thereabouts actually think and behave as opposed to how political theorists imagine they think and behave. She told us that young people do not go into tobacconists, grocers and supermarkets to buy their cigarettes; they get them from friends in the playground, from people at street corners and so on. This is borne out by the figures just quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, from a survey of 11,000 teenagers undertaken by Trading Standards North West. All these things put together make an overwhelming case for rejecting Clause 19.
I raised at Second Reading the problem of the imported illegal tobacco trade, and I re-emphasise the words of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. Indeed, I concur with my noble friend Lord Listowel: the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, has great marketing experience. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to work for him very many years ago. I reiterate that we must know what plans the Government have to crack down on that illegal trade. That is very serious.
I beg indulgence for two minutes, because I was not here on Thursday and I must confess to being totally lost about what procedural point we have reached. I want to say two sentences, and that is all. The two sentences are these. If the advertising makes no difference, why do it? If it does, there is every reason for us to ban it.
I have been going around looking in corner shops recently. It is quite clear to me that the displays are advertising and that the tobacco advertising Act should have ensured that they did not continue. I have spent years dealing with children, their perceptions and how they learn and respond. I know that children are influenced by colour and connection. The displays are colourful and connected to sweets, which says to children, “Sweets are sort of okay”—I have an issue about sweets and obesity, but sweets are a treat—“so cigarettes, which are next to them, must be sort of okay”. All those things are true.
I apologise for interjecting, but having listened to the last few speakers, I felt provoked to get up to say that there are some unrealities and the real argument is: if they do not make a difference, we do not mind losing them anyway; if they do, there is every reason to ban them.
May I just clarify that for the noble Baroness? Advertising is paid-for communication through all sorts of different media. Putting a product in a pack to look after the quality of the product inside the pack is not advertising. The fact that you put on the name of the brand is therefore for consumer recognition between one pack on the shelf and another, both of which have cigarettes inside.
I do not propose to detain the Committee for long in the light of what the Chief Whip said a little while ago. I was unable to be here on Thursday, but having heard the speeches this afternoon, I want to make three small points. First, tobacco smoking is one of the greatest health hazards of the age. It causes not just lung cancer but many other forms of cancer. It is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. It is a tremendous medical scourge and anything that we can do to reduce the incidence of tobacco smoking is in my opinion crucial in the interests of the health of the community.
The issue of tobacco advertising was debated at length in this House and elsewhere in Parliament and the Government in their wisdom decreed that advertising should be banned. I said at the time that I smoked my first cigarette in a mining village in Durham county when I was 10 years of age. By the time I was 14, I was smoking not regularly but frequently when I could avoid being spotted by my parents. By the time I was in the Army in 1948, I was smoking 25 cigarettes a day because I could get a 50 can of Senior Service for one shilling and eight pence on my hospital ship. I did not know the hazards at that time. I gave up smoking completely when I was in my mid-40s. Happily, the statistics show that if you give up in your mid-40s, the incidence, the risk of cancer and so on, after another five years falls to that in the non-smoker.
Recently agreed guidelines to the WHO framework convention on tobacco control define retail displays, vending machines and tobacco packaging as forms of advertising and promotion and recommend that parties to the FCTC, which includes the UK, should ban retail displays and the sale of tobacco products in vending machines and consider the adoption of plain packaging. I warmly support all those initiatives.
I know that the Minister is dying to get going—just one more intervention. It is difficult when the Chief Whip tells us that we may not speak in support of the Government.
I wholly support many of the remarks made in favour of this clause standing part of the Bill. Smoking is absolutely one of the biggest health challenges facing us. I do not believe that this provision will drive small shops underground or make them defunct. With 15 per cent of our 15 year-olds smoking, and with smoking probably one of the biggest contributors to the health inequality of social class 5 compared with any other cause, I believe that we ought to let this clause remain part of the Bill. I hope the Minister will not mind me giving her that support.
I am very glad to receive the noble Baroness’s support.
I listened very carefully to the noble Earl’s opening remarks, as I always do, because I hold his views in very high esteem. He was, as ever, succinct and compelling. We have had a lengthy debate, both last week and today, and the clause has provoked strong reactions. Like the noble Earl, I spent a large part of the weekend reviewing the evidence on which the Government’s case rests and reading the Hansard report of Thursday’s debate. I have to say to the noble Earl that I find the evidence convincing. If I may, I shall spend some time explaining to the Committee what our aims are; what the Bill will mean in practice for retailers and customers; why we believe that the measure is necessary, effective and proportionate; and also to touch on the underlying evidence, in sufficient but not too much detail.
Let me be very clear about our aims in removing tobacco displays. We want to protect children from the marketing of tobacco products and also support those who are trying to quit smoking. Perhaps I may explain how the clause would do that.
Section 7A of Clause 19 prohibits the display of tobacco products in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means that the shelving in shops, known as gantries, would have to be covered up. That does not mean that cigarette packets would have to be moved and stored elsewhere. We have no intention of dictating that tobacco products have to be located in any particular place, such as under the counter or overhead. Retailers would be free to cover the gantry as they see fit provided that they comply with the regulations. In practice, and as many noble Lords have said, the majority of customers would ask to buy their regular brand. The shop assistant—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Laird, for his research; I hope he did not get into trouble with the security services in the supermarket he visited—would reach to the existing gantry and simply lift a flap or slide back a cover to take a packet out and then immediately close it again. The flap could be sprung to be self-closing. Some Canadian systems have magnetic flaps that close automatically. In serving customers the shopkeeper would have to reveal a limited display which could of course be seen incidentally by anyone nearby, including children, but as long as the display complies with the regulations no offence would be committed.
The approach likely to be taken in regulations is to define the maximum area of display that it would be legal to reveal at any one time and to say that it must only be revealed for as long as is reasonable in order to serve a customer. The area could, for example, be set as one or two square feet, but this has yet to be decided and will be the subject of consultation. Let us not be obtuse about this. This is not about preventing any viewing ever of a cigarette pack by a child. But there is a big difference between seeing a single cigarette pack and being exposed to a large, brightly lit and colourful gantry in your local corner shop next to your sweets.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Monson, in his aim to reduce children’s exposure to the glamorisation of smoking—a point that he made in our debate last week. I personally wish that models and celebrities would quit smoking for their own sake and for that of thousands of young people, particularly young women, who believe that smoking is glamorous and will keep you slim.
However, this policy is about preventing the tobacco industry promoting smoking through the well established marketing tool of display. We must be practical, which is why new Section 7B(2) provides that there will be no offence for a “requested display”. I do not want to repeat the debate that we have already had on this but I should like to explain.
In reality, the majority of smokers know which brand they are going to buy when they go into a shop. Research shows that less than 10 per cent of smokers change brands each year, and only 1 per cent say that their decision to do so is based on the display. However, some customers will need the chance to see a particular cigarette packet before buying it. Under the “requested display” provision, customers would be able to ask to see a cigarette packet. The retailer could show them the pack and this would not be an offence, provided the customer was aged 18 or over. The real effect of the “requested display” provision would be to ensure that shop assistants challenged customers who might be underage at the earliest opportunity, as soon as they asked to see a tobacco product. After all, there is not much point in showing them cigarettes if they are not legally able to buy them.
Customers would still need to know what tobacco products a shop sold and, as discussed previously in response to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge—or perhaps it was the noble Baroness, Lady Barker—on Section 7C, retailers would be able to display price and availability lists. We are already working with the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium to develop appropriate regulations on the display of products and price lists.
The clause also makes an exemption from the general prohibition for the tobacco trade, enabling wholesalers to continue to display their products for sale to the retail trade. We are considering making further exemptions by regulation, such as for specialist tobacconists.
Finally, Section 7D provides regulation-making powers to control the display of tobacco products and their prices on a website where the service provider of that website is based in the UK. Therefore, retailers in this tobacco display-free world could continue to display a generic “tobacco” or “cigarettes for sale” sign outside their shop. Customers could check the products available and their prices on a clearly displayed, plain price list. The retailer could select a product from a covered gantry knowing that the small number of cigarettes on display for a short period of time would not constitute an offence. Our children would be protected from tobacco marketing, and smokers who want to quit would also be supported.
I should like to take some time to set out why this is an important public health measure. As has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death in England. It results in more preventable deaths each year than from suicide, alcohol, road traffic accidents, illicit drugs and diabetes combined. It is the primary reason for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. Since the Second Reading debate, we can confirm that the latest figure for the number of deaths caused by smoking in England each year is 84,000. The Royal College of Physicians tells us that smoking is now positively associated with more than 40 diseases, and the list continues to grow.
We know that the nicotine in tobacco products makes them powerfully addictive. We also know that tobacco manufacturers have purposefully designed, engineered and marketed cigarettes to enhance both the development and maintenance of addiction. According to the US Surgeon-General, nicotine is five to 10 times more potent than cocaine or morphine in producing the behavioural and psychological effects associated with addiction. The Royal College of Physicians says that, in comparison with other substances, including cocaine and heroin, initial use of nicotine is more likely to lead to addiction. The prevalence of addiction among smokers is higher than it is among users of other drugs.
The latest figures show that nearly seven in 10 adults who smoke say that they want to quit, and 45 per cent will make a serious attempt to quit. Most smokers will try quitting 10 or more times before succeeding. Some two-thirds of current and past smokers say that they started smoking regularly before they were 18 years old. That means that they were hooked on nicotine in tobacco before they were old enough to make an informed adult decision about whether or not to smoke.
Among young people who try smoking cigarettes, between one-third and one-half are likely to become regular smokers within two to three years. However, evidence shows that signs of addiction can emerge within weeks of trying to smoke. In 2007, nearly 200,000 children between 11 and 15 were already regular smokers. The Government strongly believe that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect young people from becoming addicted to tobacco.
We also believe we should do everything we can to support those people who are already addicted but want to quit. I am delighted that the noble Earl and many other noble Lords are fully signed-up to our public health objectives. I shall now set out why this policy will be effective in helping us to achieve them.
The first point to consider is the role of display. Product display is a well-established marketing principle deliberately used across the retail sector. It is one of the last remaining means of promotion of tobacco since the comprehensive Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 and subsequent regulations. In the past few years we have seen tobacco displays grow to become large, brightly-lit features of most shops, incorporating promotional aspects such as clock and tower cases. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, pointed out that our consultation document indicated a lack of research on this point. I am pleased to inform him that, since the publication of the consultation, ASH has commissioned a report on tobacco points of sale summarising evidence from 153 retail premises across 20 different local authorities. The report states:
“In all premises the packs are prominently displayed … in such a way as to promote the product to customers … Photographic examples clearly show that such displays are used as a marketing tool … The displays are believed to be typical across the retail trade as a whole”.
I strongly urge the noble Earl and other noble Lords to look at these photographs—I shall be happy to make them available—and compare them with displays in 2002. They are significantly different. Since we stopped the tobacco industry promoting smoking by other means, tobacco displays have got bigger and brighter.
The second point to consider is whether the tobacco industry’s investment in display has been worth it. My noble friend Lady Golding relayed her conversation with a 15 year-old who said we should talk to children before removing tobacco displays. Indeed, last week, when we held the presentations that I had arranged with Professor Gerald Hastings, that is exactly what he reported to us from the interviewing of 13 year-olds about tobacco displays. The comments were striking:
“If you don’t see them you might not think about it then go for a day without them … In some shops the tabs”—
which is slang for cigarettes, in case noble Lords are in doubt—
“are just out on display and the kids just look at them and think, ‘I want that’”.
They say that if these displays were not there, the cigarettes would be out of sight and out of mind.
It is right that we should talk to children before making policies which will impact on them. We were delighted to receive responses to our consultation from a number of young people’s groups. They were strongly supportive of this policy and other tobacco control measures.
On experimental evidence, Cancer Research UK recently published a summary report detailing findings of primary research with UK adolescents and the extensive existing evidence base for this policy. The primary research was based on a long-term study, the Youth Tobacco Awareness Survey, which examines the impacts of tobacco advertising restrictions on young people in the UK. A number of peer-reviewed academic papers have been published based on this work and one focused specifically on how tobacco marketing continues despite the advertising ban currently in preparation. The first wave of data collection for the primary research took place in autumn 1999, more than three years before the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act; the second wave was conducted in summer 2002, approximately six months before the ban; the third in summer 2004, about 18 months after the ban; and the final wave was collected in summer 2006, about three and a half years after the ban.
I am going into this detail because the noble Earl was concerned about the robust nature of this research. The data collection involved face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires. The participants were a cross-sectional group of 11 to 16 year-olds covering a variety of backgrounds, social groups and lifestyles. In total, 4,479 children took part over seven years. The study looked at how aware of tobacco marketing children were, and this impacted on their behaviour and attitudes towards smoking. If noble Lords are interested in reading the report I would be most happy to make it available to them. The findings of the summary report are key and worth quoting. The first is that,
“Prominent point of sale displays … can distort perceived smoking norms by making smoking seem a more normal and common activity than it is in reality”.
The second is that,
“International evidence suggests that removing packs from sight at point of sale could reduce adolescents’ exposure to cigarette brand impressions in stores by as much as 83%. It would also help adults to quit”.
The third is that,
“There is clear evidence that tobacco point of sale has a direct impact on young people’s smoking”;
and the fourth is that,
“Among established smokers, point of sale does not facilitate brand choice … it stimulates impulse purchases and undermines efforts of smokers to quit”.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, questioned the logic of the author of the report based on a conversation. I hope that he might go back and take a second look at the evidence. We have taken advice on the quality of evidence for the measure from peer-reviewed academic research, from internationally recognised experts and from widely respected academic and charitable organisations. Although it is of course his prerogative to disagree that the evidence is sufficient to justify the policy, he has not presented any evidence to dissuade me from my view that the evidence supports our policy.
Bearing in mind the need to be brief, I have simply summarised the evidence base so far. If noble Lords wish to consider the evidence further they might like to read the Cancer Research UK report and the impact assessment accompanying the Bill. They may also wish to see the Department of Health website, which provides a factsheet, and the presentations from the authors of the point-of-sale and Cancer Research UK reports.
I move now to the question of proportionality. We want pragmatic solutions to the issue of removing tobacco displays. That is why we are already talking to key stakeholders, such as the Association of Convenience Stores, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists, and I have a meeting arranged with the National Federation of Retail Newsagents for tomorrow evening. I should point out that for many years I was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Retail Group before joining the Government, and I worked for the Co-Op for 15 years as part of my career. So I do understand retailing and marketing. I have a record of support for the British retail industry, including small stores.
The Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium are arranging for officials from my department to visit a convenience store in order to assist with the drafting of regulations. I actually hope that they will visit more than one. International experience shows that removing tobacco displays need not be costly. One acceptable low-cost solution which my officials saw during their visit to Canada has been used by many stores across that country. We have received a quote from the company which provides this solution and supplies 85 per cent of the Canadian market, and it would cost 15 Canadian dollars—around £8.40—per square foot of display covered. Although I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that this is not Canada, I would also suggest that that is a reasonable indication of the type of cost we are talking about.
The point-of-sale report I referred to earlier found that small independent newsagents had a minimum display area of 1 metre by 1.3 metres—or about 3 feet 3 inches by 4 feet 3 inches in old currency. The cost could be as little as £120. Even a display of 25 square feet could be covered at a cost of around £210. I should emphasise that there would be economies of scale to be gained for larger display areas or if several shops worked together. So it is not a simple matter of multiplication for larger stores.
The noble Baroness is correct. I am coming to that point next. The Government have set out in the regulatory impact assessment accompanying the Bill the potential cost of these measures to business, using an estimated average cost of £1,000 a store. That is a generous assessment which more than allows for the stores that may choose more elaborate means to remove their tobacco displays. In its response to our consultation, the Association of Convenience Stores said:
“We do know that it is commonplace for tobacco companies to pay for gantries and their replacement”.
The noble Baroness was, as ever, ahead of me. We understand from experience in Canada that the tobacco industry continued to fund the cost of tobacco gantries even after a prohibition on display. The suggestion has also been made that removing the display of tobacco would impact on business by reducing footfall trade, by which I mean the sale of other items such as newspapers and sweets to customers who buy cigarettes. I think we should be realistic about this.
First, people who choose to smoke will continue to buy their cigarettes and secondary purchases even after tobacco is removed from display. Secondly, the provisions of this Bill will apply equally to all tobacco retailers, so it will not favour one over another; there will be a level playing field for all businesses. Finally, retailers understand that they cannot rely on the sale of tobacco for ever. The market for tobacco will continue to decline, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and a fact for which we make no apologies. This means that small retailers need to diversify their businesses to take account of customers’ changing spending patterns, a fact acknowledged in Convenience Store magazine in May last year when it stated:
“We are investing heavily in non-tobacco areas. Frankly, that is where the future is”.
We are particularly aware—
I have gone into some detail about how we think this will work and why we think that it will not have the devastating impact that the noble Earl and the noble Lord suggest. However, we are aware that in the current economic climate, small businesses are struggling, and that is why we would not commence this legislation until 2011 for larger stores and 2013 for small ones. We understand that small convenience stores replace their tobacco gantries every five years or so, and that means that refurbishments would be able to be made in the normal refurbishment cycle for many stores. Providing an extra two years’ lead-in time for implementation will enable small shops to take advantage of the innovative solutions that I am sure will be developed, and that extra time has been welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, noted concerns expressed by retailers, particularly in the growth in membership of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. I hope that he is aware that the alliance is funded by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which represents three of the largest tobacco companies: British American Tobacco UK, Gallagher and Imperial Tobacco. Of course we could trade statistics on who has written to whom about what consultations, but I should like to note that the Save our Shops postcard campaign that lobbied many Members of this House and the other place was run by the Responsible Retailers’ Campaign, which is also funded by the tobacco retailers.
Perhaps I may refer to a few points made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and others. He raised the issue about where children get their tobacco products. That research—Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People, from the NHS statistics and information centre—shows that 78 per cent of young people buy their cigarettes from shops, either local shops or supermarkets, with 17 per cent buying from machines. I am happy to make the material available to the noble Lord.
I should point out to the Minister that the survey to which I referred was carried out by Trading Standards North West in September 2007. It is important that the Minister gives the dates of her surveys because this is a moving market and it is very difficult for Members of the Committee to keep track if evidence is given which has been overtaken by other events in the market.
The noble Lord may have a point there, and I will certainly check it. However, I think that it is very unlikely that young people are not buying their cigarettes from shops. As I say, I will check that, but our information shows that the vast majority of children get their tobacco products from shops. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred to the consultation process. We received more than 100,000 responses to the consultation: 10,586 responses from small retailers, including the pre-prepared postcards or e-mails made available to respondents from third parties; 11 responses from large retailers; 21 responses from retail industry representative organisations, including trade organisations; and seven responses from organisations that receive funding directly from the department for programmes of work relating to smoking. We received 85,000 responses from members of the public, which also included pre-prepared postcards or e-mails made available by third parties.
The noble Lord said that the consultation was unsatisfactory in terms of Asian shopkeepers and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I have dealt with the correspondence on this issue and have invited representatives of the relevant association to a meeting tomorrow. However, the organisation which was helping them to submit letters to the Equality and Human Rights Commission was funded by the tobacco industry. In view of the Government’s policy on this matter, I cannot meet with an organisation which is funded directly by the tobacco industry. However, as I want to take their concerns on board, I have invited them to join my larger meeting tomorrow, if they wish to do so.
Will the Minister clarify that? Is she saying that Her Majesty’s Government will not meet with any organisation that receives money from the tobacco industry, but will meet with ASH and all the other bodies to whom they provided funds, which then make representations to them? Is that a level playing field?
We will indeed discuss an amendment that I tabled that relates to the WHO guidelines, which state that Governments should not be unduly lobbied by the tobacco industry or unduly swayed by it, and that they should not meet it in those circumstances. The Foreign Office already has that guidance as regards how it operates overseas. We will come to that later.
I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. The general public are concerned about youth smoking. In a public opinion poll conducted by ICM in October, more than eight in 10 people said that they were concerned about children and young people starting to smoke, and agreed that the Government should do more to discourage them from doing so and help those who do smoke to quit.
Nearly seven in 10 people agreed that tobacco displays should be removed from shops if there were evidence that it would discourage young people from starting to smoke, and we are confident that there is robust evidence. There is also significant support for a prohibition on display from a wide range of organisations, including: the Royal College of Physicians, Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, the Local Government Association, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the National Children’s Bureau, the National Heart Forum, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, as well as numerous local authorities and NHS bodies. Internationally, a growing number of jurisdictions are removing, or planning to remove, tobacco displays. They include Iceland, 12 of the 13 Canadian provinces, Thailand, the British Virgin Islands and Norway. In addition, four states in Australia are consulting or planning to legislate.
Noble Lords referred in our debate on Thursday to New Zealand. The New Zealand Government have changed their mind. They are ignoring a recommendation from their health committee to remove displays. That change of heart came about after a general election that installed a Conservative Government. They have provided no evidence above and beyond that available to the committee that first recommended that policy. That is not an example that we intend to follow. Most important for us, perhaps, is Scotland's decision to remove tobacco displays. It would be a shame if it were only the children of Scotland—and, indeed, Ireland—who were protected from tobacco industry promotion. It is an essential measure to reduce smoking by young people and to support smokers who want to quit, and it should stand part of the Bill.
Last Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, questioned where I was coming from in arguing against the provisions. Very simply, I come from a school that rates personal and commercial freedoms more highly than many societal goods. I do not come from the school of big government. Big government may sometimes be necessary, but we have to justify its intrusion into our lives before allowing it.
It is right that we look at the scientific evidence both for and against, but in the end this is a political judgment. It is a judgment that weighs up prospective public health benefits on the one hand and the risk to commercial freedoms and the viability of businesses on the other. Therefore, this debate is both appropriate and necessary. Those of us who were prepared to sign up to the ban on tobacco advertising and smoking in public places judged that the case for those measures had been sufficiently made. I fear that in this case I am in the other camp. Unfortunately for her, the Minister's reply has taken me no further forward in accepting the Government’s arguments, although I shall of course look carefully at all the sources of reference that she highlighted.
It is not clear to me why, if the Government are so exercised about point-of-sale displays and the possibility that they may have come to resemble de facto advertisements, they do not regulate to restrict the size and content of such displays instead of banning them altogether. After all, it is not so long ago that Ministers felt able to make a clear distinction between what constituted an advertisement, which, in their eyes, was harmful, and what constituted a display, which they felt was not. If we accept for a moment without further evidence that some displays have changed and become more eye-catching and glitzy, why not regulate to make them less glitzy and take us back to how displays supposedly used to be? That option does not appear to have been considered at any length by Ministers.
Another issue needs to be mentioned, but the Minister did not do so. If tobacco companies are prevented from engaging in commercial competition at point of sale, which is what a display ban would mean, they would resort to competing on price. One brand of cigarette is already trying to do that. The recommended retail price of that brand per pack is only 1p above the aggregate amount of government taxes. What do we want to achieve? Do we want cigarettes to become cheaper? As far as the young are concerned, the cheaper, the better. We have only to think of the damage done by the illicit market in smuggled tobacco, which can be half the price of the duty-paid product to appreciate the risk that we are running with this measure.
Incidentally, is the Minister aware that the black market in cigarettes does not feature in Iceland? That is another reason why comparisons with that country are somewhat dangerous. The Canadian Convenience Stores Association stated:
“In Canada (since the inception of display bans) we have seen unprecedented growth of contraband/illegal tobacco and now one in every two cigarettes sold are sourced through the black market”.
If we look at what drives young people to take up smoking, the main influences are: peer pressure; image consciousness, because it is seen as being cool; and having parents who smoke. We are simply not in a position to say that they take up smoking because of displays in shops. There is no evidence for that other than repeated assertion. We can produce a collection of speech bubbles from kids who have been interviewed about the eye-catching nature of displays but we cannot base an evidential case on speech bubbles. The most that these show is that some displays are eye-catching; they do not show that they affect smoking behaviour.
A number of noble Lords, including the Minister, have pointed to legislation in other countries. Perhaps I may end by stating the obvious. Passing legislation in this House is not a matter of routinely copying other countries or jurisdictions. If it were, our lives would be immeasurably easier. It behoves us as responsible legislators to decide these issues for ourselves, looking at the circumstances particular to our own country. I do not think that we should be deflected in the slightest from having a thorough debate and reaching our own conclusions. We will doubtless continue the debate and reach those conclusions at the next stage of the Bill.
We have not finished yet. When I objected to the Bill being taken in Grand Committee, I was told, “There will be plenty of time to debate it in Grand Committee”. The noble Baroness treated us to a very long explanation as to why this legislation should go through. I very much appreciated that, but I came to the conclusion that she was talking about not a ban on displays but a ban on tobacco, full stop.
If it is true, as the Royal College of Physicians has apparently told the noble Baroness, that smoking is more dangerous than cannabis and cocaine, then it should be banned. Let us have a little less hypocrisy. If that is the case and the Government accept that case, they should ban it. They should make tobacco a class A drug. Why do they not do that? Why do they keep coming to us in dribs and drabs, banning this and that, now banning displays and vending machines and what have you? Why are they messing about with it? Why do they not come clean and say that they want a complete ban and bring forward a Bill that would do that? It may very well be that they do not want to do that because there is £10 billion at stake, but let us have the truth. If that is the case, then we can understand why these restrictions come along in dribs and drabs: they want to hang on to the money but they want to bombard the smoker and the tobacco companies with all sorts of restrictions.
With regard to the Government’s refusal to talk to the tobacco industry and anyone who is promoted by them or receives promotion from them, do they talk to the drug companies? The drug companies are very well known for giving gifts and so on to GPs to promote some products which have proved to be dangerous, such as thalidomide. It is no good saying “Gosh”; we are having an argument about something which affects 80,000 jobs in the retail sector and 22 per cent of the population who smoke. They are constantly bombarded from one side or the other—if not the Government, then some health authority or whatever. Let us hear from the noble Baroness.
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I want to ask one question. This statistic of 80,000 jobs depending on tobacco has already been bounced around this Room. In fact, 5,000 jobs depend on tobacco, and 80,000 jobs are in the sector of retailing that sells tobacco along with about 20,000 other product lines.
I was mentioning the tobacco retailers. Some noble Lords, particularly those who are members of new Labour, might be interested to know that we have heard from the trade union UNITE. It does not support these clauses at all. It says:
“The UK tobacco industry is highly profitable to the Treasury, generating tax revenue of £10 billion ... There are currently 6,500 people working in the tobacco sector and … 80,000 people in the UK”.
It says that exports are worth £984 million and,
“the illegal trade in tobacco products is costing the UK tax payer and the public sector £4.3 billion”
per year. That is not from me but from a trade union that gives a lot of money to the Labour Party. It is worried, as it is entitled to be, about the jobs of its members at a time when there is a very serious depression. We have to take these things into account.
I do not want to keep the Committee for too much longer but, as I say, I was assured that in Committee I would have plenty of time to make my points. It was the Leader of the House who told me that. This is an important matter; a lot of people have spoken on it, and we must speak it out, so to speak.
That was a bit flippant, wasn’t it? There was only one executioner and his assistant. We do not have capital punishment and I would not want it to be reintroduced.
It says on tobacco packets, “Smoking kills”, but smoking does not kill everyone who smokes. Will the Minister confirm that 78 per cent of people who die not from smoking but from “smoking-related diseases” are over the age of 65? We have all got to die from something, you know.
If we are going to go into personal experiences, I was born in the Rhondda valley and my father was a coal miner. I saw lots of people who were working down the mines suffering from emphysema, and many people suffered from it who had never smoked in their lives. All sorts of things cause so-called smoking-related diseases. It is no good the Minister shaking her head.
All right, if we are going into real personal experiences: my father smoked all his life from the time that he was 13, all the time that he was fighting for this country and being a prisoner of war in Germany. He smoked all his life: cigarettes, pipe, cigars, anything you like to speak of. He died when he was 84. So he was all right. My grandfather also smoked a pipe and cigarettes all his life; he died when he was 93. All these personal experiences get us nowhere because people die from all sorts of diseases for all sorts of reasons.
I was going to ask the Minister when I was quoting some statistics about people who die from smoking—before she shook her head—if she would confirm that that is not actually known. It is not put on a death certificate whether people have died from smoking. She will find that those figures are not clinical but statistical. We should take those things into account.
I am going to sit down because I can see that the Committee is getting very impatient and wants to get on with its business. I want it to get on with its business as well. So, although I have stacks of things still to say, in order to respect the Committee and its wish to carry on, I will sit down.
Clause 19 agreed.
86: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—
“Purchase of tobacco on behalf of children
After section 7(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12) (sale of tobacco, etc, to persons under (eighteen)) insert—
“(2A) A person commits an offence if he buys or attempts to buy tobacco on behalf of an individual aged under 18.
(2B) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (2A) it is a defence that he had not reason to suspect that the individual was aged under 18.
(2C) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.””
I turn to an issue that I hope the Minister will want to look at seriously—that is, how the current law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors might be tightened up. Before speaking to the detail of the amendment, it is perhaps worth my making a general point. The measures contained in the Bill are designed to bear down on the prevalence of smoking, particularly smoking by children. That is the main justification put forward for them, and the underlying aim is of course wholly right in public health terms. However, both of the Bill’s main measures in this area—the ban on point-of-sale-displays and restrictions on vending machines—impinge in one way or another on personal and commercial freedoms.
The balance to be struck between public health and personal and commercial freedoms, and the proportionality of the measures in the light of the evidence available, is where the debates tend to be centred. On point-of-sale displays in particular, as we have just discovered, it is a debate of some complexity. I contend that the arguments about balance and proportionality are made more difficult if, in making them, we cannot say that we have done as much as we can to make the current law work effectively. Parliament has made it illegal for cigarettes to be sold to anyone under 18. It is perhaps too soon to tell how well or badly that law is working. However, Parliament has not put in place measures that would back up and buttress that law and give it the best possible chance. There are several things of that kind that could be done, none of which impinges to any great degree on personal or commercial freedoms. I have picked on one of those measures in this amendment, and it relates to proxy sales. When we consider the subject of underage smoking, we should remember one important fact, which is that one of the most likely ways for a young person to get hold of cigarettes is from adults. This is true both for their first ever cigarette and for underage regular smokers.
Currently there is no legal deterrent to adults who purchase tobacco on behalf of young people and supply it to them. It was therefore disappointing to see that in the Government’s consultation of last year, they stated that they are not minded to make it illegal to proxy purchase, and gave two reasons. The first reason was that there was little evidence that proxy purchasing is a common practice. That statement was extremely puzzling. The Government’s own figures as quoted in the consultation document show that 89 per cent of young people cite that they either buy or are given cigarettes by another person. Thus, proxy purchasing, far from being uncommon, is the most serious component part of youth access to tobacco. The second reason given by the Government was that the law would be difficult to enforce. Here it is true that the burden of evidence required to prosecute a proxy purchaser creates an enforcement challenge and that there are barriers in the way of action on this front, mainly to do with resources.
However, recent developments in the enforcement of alcohol legislation show that it is possible and can be cost-effective. One example comes from the community alcohol partnership approach that is currently being trialled in parts of the country. In St Neots in Cambridgeshire, local agencies have been working with retailers and focusing resources on deterring and detecting underage alcohol sales using a combination of intelligence-led action against proxy sales and confiscation powers. As a result of this approach, a real reduction in underage drinking in the town was achieved, and the enforcement costs were no different from more standard enforcement approaches.
Although a proposal to make proxy purchasing an offence was briefly debated by Members in another place during the course of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, it was opposed by the Government. I do not believe that the issues have yet been fully debated—I am not aware that they have been debated in this House—and I strongly believe that such a measure would command public support. ACS recently commissioned an independent poll by GfK NOP, where 92 per cent of those who responded supported the introduction of penalties for adults who supply tobacco to children. Knowingly buying tobacco for a person who is legally too young to smoke is unarguably immoral and, I believe, should be illegal. The evidence available shows that it is one of the main routes by which underage smokers get hold of tobacco products, and that is why I believe that a strategy in this area that does not include a credible means of deterring adults from supplying tobacco to children is both incomplete and likely to fail. I beg to move.
I have the greatest admiration and respect for the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the principles underlying the amendment he has proposed so elegantly are unexceptionable. My only concern relates to the fact that, as he has suggested, to implement a statute along these lines might ultimately be very difficult to police. But that does not mean that attempts should not be made to introduce legislation to protect youngsters from other people who might buy cigarettes on their behalf.
I confess that I was somewhat surprised by his comments in the last debate that he recognised the health hazards associated with smoking but was concerned with issues relating to commercial freedom. I remember very well—I have already shared my personal smoking history with the Committee—that when I became a medical student in 1941, the dean of medicine who was then a professor of anatomy advised all the medical students to smoke, particularly in the dissecting room, to try and dispel the odours.
During the war all cigarettes went under the counter. I was a regular smoker, as were all my colleagues, and none of us had the slightest difficulty in obtaining cigarettes even though they were not on display; our friendly local newsagent sold them to us from under the counter. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent retailers from continuing to sell cigarettes. All it will do is make it much more difficult for them to do so on the basis of displays which are likely to attract individuals. Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I cannot resist quoting from World Tobacco, the tobacco industry journal, which stated in 1999:
“If your brand can no longer shout from billboards let alone from the cinema screen … at least court smokers from the retailers’ shelf”.
That is an important point. However, the principles underlying the amendment are worthy of warm support and I hope that the Government will give it a fair wind.
I support the noble Earl’s amendment to create a new offence of proxy purchase. I do so because of my experience in campaigning for the introduction of a similar offence in relation to alcohol when I was chief executive of the Portman Group, and from seeing the value of that offence in action once it was brought into law in the Licensing (Young Persons) Act 2000, which came into force in January 2001. However, it is relevant to add that in Scotland proxy purchase for alcohol has been an offence since 1976.
Comparisons with alcohol legislation are relevant to the tobacco issue. If I remember correctly, the proxy purchase proposal on alcohol began life in another place as a Private Member’s Bill, although in the end, as the noble Earl said, the Government supported it. One of the most compelling parts of the evidence which supported the offence in relation to alcohol was a research finding that showed that the people most likely to approach strangers in the street and ask them to buy alcohol for them were 13 year-old girls. I am not aware of any parallel evidence in relation to tobacco, but I bet 13 year-old girls are the group most likely to approach strangers in the street. Those young girls, of course, will expose themselves to all manner of other dangers as well as to the dangers of smoking.
If an offence of proxy purchase was a good idea in relation to alcohol, how much more so is it a good idea in relation to tobacco? I hope, for example, that, as with alcohol, it would trigger a large number of awareness and enforcement campaigns—there are already dozens of these all over the UK in relation to alcohol—involving the police, PCSOs and trading standards officers working together to raise awareness of the law and to enforce it.
Of course, comparisons between alcohol and tobacco are not always, or even often, justified and relevant. I support the proposals in the Bill to restrict some of the marketing freedoms around tobacco, but were they made in relation to alcohol I would not support them. That is not to say that there is not sometimes a need for legislation in relation to alcohol, not least for a legal purchase age, but with alcohol there is a genuine role for education to promote moderation and responsibility; that is not the case in relation to tobacco. There is a sensible drinking message but there is no sensible smoking message. However, the amendment which proposes an offence of proxy purchase would introduce a measure which holds good across both alcohol and tobacco. I believe it would command broad support across a wide range of stakeholders, from parents to retailers.
We have seen with the smoking ban, first in Scotland and then more recently in England and Wales, that there is an interesting relationship between legislation and culture change; no one now thinks it is right or normal to light up a cigarette in pubs or restaurants. A new offence of proxy purchase is now needed to help change the culture so that unscrupulous adults no longer think it is either right or normal to go into shops and buy cigarettes to pass on to children in the street. Perhaps this time the Government could be on the front foot and not leave it to Scotland to try it first or to a Private Member’s Bill. The Government should give serious consideration to this measure, take the lead and bring it into the main body of the Bill.
Although the noble Earl will know that I cannot support him in relation to displays or vending machines, and I do not see this provision as a replacement, I support the amendment and ask the Government carefully to consider it. If the only argument against it is that it is difficult to police, many other things are difficult to police but we ensure that we do our best. It is very difficult in some areas of the country that I know well to police the distribution of certain drugs, but we would not say that because of that we would fail to try to do so.
We know that LACORS, which is the organisation with responsibility for policing those areas, would like to combine the policing of tobacco and alcohol because the two are not unrelated when young women are trying to find someone to make purchases for them on the street. I therefore ask the Government to look carefully at this, although I hope that the noble Earl understands that I see it as a package rather than a replacement.
Not for the first time, I find myself agreeing with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said. In particular, I endorse her point that this is part of the much wider approach on tobacco control contained in the Bill. It is in no sense a stand-alone or alternative measure. I certainly welcome the noble Earl's determination to do something about young people being able to get hold of cigarettes and this is a way to do that. I must tease him slightly because there is even less research evidence to support the view that this would work than there is for the proposition on point-of-sale display, which we have already spent so much time debating in Committee.
If this is part of a comprehensive package which includes banning point-of-sale material and vending machines, plain packaging and the licensing of tobacco, which is the subject of Amendment 106 to be moved by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, we may be able to do something about the problem of young people and smoking. This is part of the approach. It would be much easier to enforce if the noble Earl would agree that licensing of tobacco retailing should be introduced under the Bill, but it is certainly worth giving it a go.
I also support the amendment. I chair CitizenCard, which is a proof-of-age card mostly funded by the tobacco industry—not by the Government—and by other industries that contribute to the sale of goods such as alcohol. The provision would be a very good thing. At the moment, shopkeepers who belong to our scheme—almost 2 million proof-of-age cards have been sold—keep a diary on the desk. If a child whom they think is under age comes to them and asks to buy tobacco and they refuse because they have no proof of age, they keep a record that they have refused the child. However, if an adult comes into the shop at the same time, buys the cigarettes and passes them to the child, the tobacconist is then tarred with the same brush. Many small shop keepers would welcome the provision and it would certainly help them with the very difficult problem of controlling the sale of tobacco to underage children.
Amendment 86 would make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco on behalf of children, a practice known as proxy purchasing.
The noble Earl’s intention behind the amendment, to reduce the number of underage people who can access tobacco, is of course completely commendable and we agree with it. We all agree that it is wrong for adults to supply children with cigarettes. It undermines the law and encourages young people to experiment with and take up smoking, with all the long-term health consequences that we have discussed.
At the moment, the Government feel that the law must be enforceable and proxy purchasing is a difficult offence to pursue. This is partly confirmed by our experience of the rarity of prosecutions for proxy purchasing of alcohol, although I take on board the broader points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. Proxy purchasing for alcohol is not currently undertaken by local authorities but by the police. For local authorities to implement proxy purchasing for tobacco, they would need formal authorisation to undertake surveillance. This would therefore place a burden on local authorities requiring them to observe shops to monitor sales and subsequent provision of tobacco to young people. Furthermore, other means of obtaining cigarettes are more commonly used by underage people. As we have discussed, in 2006 almost 80 per cent of children aged between 11 and 15 bought their own cigarettes from a shop.
New sanctions against offenders will come into force on 1 April 2009, which will mean that magistrates will have the power to impose orders prohibiting the sale of tobacco for periods of up to a year by persons or shops that are found to have sold tobacco to people under 18. The Government have made additional resources available to local authorities through LACORS for the enforcement of tobacco-related legislation. These additional resources are to enable local trading standards officers to carry out tobacco test purchases more frequently. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 increased the sanctions against retailers, for example, who persistently sell tobacco to under age people. We are working with local authorities and retailer representatives to ensure that the law is understood, retailers are given guidance and support and trading standards officers are able to take action against irresponsible retailers who persistently continue to sell tobacco to children.
Better enforcement of existing legislation is, at the moment, likely to be more effective than adding another offence which is difficult to enforce. However, a similar amendment on proxy purchasing of tobacco was debated in this House in March 2008 and was withdrawn following a debate on the issue. The Government then promised to keep the position under review; we are doing so and I make that promise again. We would certainly welcome evidence on the issue of proxy purchasing of tobacco.
Although I am sure that noble Lords would agree that reducing children’s access to tobacco is extremely important, at the moment we believe that creating an offence for proxy purchasing would be difficult and unenforceable.
I cannot understand what my noble friend means by “under review”. Surely, if proposed new subsection (2A) were inserted into the law, a person would know they were committing an offence if they walked into a shop and attempted to buy tobacco on behalf of an individual under the age of 18. Irrespective of whether they were prosecuted, they would know that they were committing an offence. Surely that would affect their conduct in deciding on whether they were going to enter the shop and buy the cigarettes for the person under 18. So I cannot see what has to be kept under review there.
The issue that we are keeping under review relates, first, to seeing how the new sanctions being introduced on 1 April will work. Also, 49 per cent of children are given cigarettes by their friends. This involves children and young adults buying a packet of cigarettes and sharing them with their friends. This is another issue that would need to be resolved if this proposal became legislation. We would have to be careful not to criminalise those young people rather than trying to enable them, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said, to make responsible choices and decisions.
As I have said, we are keeping this under review and I hope, in the light of these explanations, that the noble Earl will agree to withdraw his amendment.
I am glad that she was well briefed. My other question arises from what the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said. She told us about her experience with the alcohol industry where she said it is already an offence for anyone to procure drinks for a person under the age of 18. What is the evidence of prosecutions for such an offence relating to alcohol?
I said in my remarks that prosecutions for proxy purchasing of alcohol are rare. I will endeavour to get the actual figures for the noble Lord, but these are rare offences. The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, made the powerful point that the introduction of the legislation allowed a large amount of education and information to be made available and a campaign to take place on that issue, which was beneficial. That campaign could not take place in this instance because, as she pointed out, as there is no safe level for smoking.
This has been a useful short debate, and I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment. Naturally, I find the Minister’s reply disappointing, although I thank her for her thoughtful response. I shall consider carefully what she has said.
I am sure she would agree that we are after a cultural change in the area of youth smoking. Creating parity between alcohol and tobacco in the way that the law treats proxy purchasing would send out a powerful message to children, parents and, for that matter, all adults alike, but it would also rebalance the burden of responsibility in this area. When it comes to enforcement, retailers are naturally in the front line. It is up to them to enforce the age limit for tobacco sales, and they run the risk of legal sanctions if they fail to do so. If the Government get their way, retailers will also be landed with the burden of enforcing the ban on displays at the point of sale. To make it illegal for an adult to buy cigarettes or tobacco on behalf of a minor would tackle the demand side of the problem by putting a legal onus on the purchaser, not just the seller.
I accept the gentle teasing of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, about research. I simply argue that this is a blatant loophole in our existing criminal law and that that is the difference between this proposal and others in the Bill.
I say to the Minister: let us look at simple measures like this one to buttress the current law before we get stuck into other measures that are inherently more difficult to agree on. I hope that the Government really will keep the matter under review. For my part, I undertake to reflect carefully on what the Minister has said before the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 86 withdrawn.
Clause 20 : Power to prohibit or restrict sales from vending machines
87: Clause 20, page 25, line 3, leave out “may” and insert “shall”
I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. The purpose of most of these amendments is to prohibit the sale of tobacco in vending machines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If the Government are not minded to go quite as far as prohibiting vending machines, four of the amendments provide that they can be prohibited with a small number of exceptions. That is the purpose of these amendments. I declare an interest as a council member of the British Heart Foundation, from whom I have received briefing, but it should be said that I have received briefing material from those on both sides of the argument. I should also say where I am coming from: as a former Permanent Secretary, I understand the Minister’s dilemma in seeking the correct balance between the rights of individuals to do something that is legal, the rights of businesses to carry on a legal trade and the Government’s wish to help people to give up smoking and to stop children from purchasing cigarettes. It is a difficult balance and part of my argument is that I do not think that it is right on this occasion. We are in danger of coming to a poor compromise rather than a good balance.
Vending machines are designed for convenience so that people are able to purchase goods, quite often without supervision—indeed, for some of the goods they purchase in this way, they may not wish to be supervised. It would be easy to think that they would be ideal for children to use if they wanted to purchase cigarettes without being seen by those supervising them. The figures show that that view is right. One per cent of the tobacco market comes through vending machines, so it is a small but material amount. A 2007 survey showed that 17 per cent of children between the ages of 11 and 15 used vending machines as their usual source of supply. That translates to one in six children, and thus 46,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15.
May I come back to that in a moment? The figure is not quite as high as 99 per cent, but it is substantial. That is partly why we have a muddle here because children actually do find it relatively easy to get access to vending machines.
As I have said, 17 per cent of children use vending machines as their usual source of supply. A survey in 2008 showed that 5 per cent of adults had used a vending machine in the past six months. So there is a simple argument that these machines make it much more convenient for children to purchase cigarettes, but that if they were not there selling tobacco, they would not disadvantage many adults who in any case have other sources of supply. That is the major part of the argument, but I want to make a number of subsidiary points in support and to look at the level of what the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has described as the “collateral damage” of introducing such a prohibition.
First, this would be in line with every other bit of government legislation dealing with products that are banned for children. It would be ridiculous if alcohol was available in vending machines; we would find that quite extraordinary. There is some comfort for the noble Baroness in that every other aspect of UK legislation treats products not available to children in the same way. We know also that 22 countries in Europe do not permit the sale of tobacco in vending machines. Again I agree entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Howe, but that is not a reason for us to do it. However, if the body of opinion suggests that people are not allowing cigarettes to be sold in vending machines, the burden is on us to show why we are different, not why we would be the same if we did what other people in Europe do.
The third point is that public opinion would probably be with a prohibition. Again, like the Minister, I am somewhat suspicious of surveys of public opinion. Nevertheless, the figures I see here show that 65 per cent of the general public would support a prohibition on the sale of tobacco in vending machines. In other words, the public are two to one in favour of such a prohibition. So there are many reasons why I would encourage the noble Baroness to be brave enough to put this prohibition in the Bill. After all, she can simply say to the public without appearing as though she is a nanny, or whatever else she may be accused of, “We are prohibiting the sale of cigarettes in vending machines because, although relatively few adults use them, they are a significant source of supply for children. Adults have other ways of obtaining cigarettes; children will find it much more difficult”. That seems to be a very straightforward argument.
Let us look at the collateral damage. I started by talking about vending machines as being about convenience, and I think that they are about convenience rather than liberty. I do not think that the Government are infringing people’s liberty by prohibiting the sale of tobacco from vending machines. It is hard to argue that buying a smaller packet of cigarettes at a higher price from a machine rather than having to go and get it from a man or a woman at a bar is a pretty fundamental liberty.
The commercial arguments, in general, do not look very strong either. Presumably adults will switch to other sources and that may benefit the small newsagents and traders, although I have seen no evidence as to what the effect will be on overall sales of tobacco. Therefore, it is difficult to judge what the effect will be on tobacco companies, although I appreciate that they will want as many outlets and opportunities as possible to put their product in front of the customer. I imagine that the real losers will be those who manufacture and maintain vending machines, but perhaps they have other products that they can put in them.
I come to where I think we are at a compromise—
The noble Lord said that perhaps other products can be put in them, but they cannot. They are specialist machines produced by special manufacturers. I shall cover the exact numbers when I come to speak to my amendment but there are 200 private cigarette vending machine businesses employing 1,000 people. I suppose that another 1,000 on the dole does not matter but I happen to think that that is quite important.
Does the noble Lord agree that there is nothing particularly unique about the shape of a tobacco packet? One can think of loads of products that could equally easily be sold from those machines. There is nothing special about them being tobacco vending machines; they are vending machines that could sell something else.
I am grateful for that intervention. Perhaps I may move on to say that this is a somewhat muddled compromise. The obvious thing would be to say, “Let’s try and make sure that only adults and not children have access to vending machines”. That would be a very sensible route, and it seems that it is being suggested in two ways. One, as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, has already said, is to put the machines in places where children are not allowed—that is, in bars. The figures that I have suggest that something like 75 per cent of vending machines are in pubs and the others are in a range of other facilities, some of which are licensed premises. Nevertheless, we note from the figures that at the moment 17 per cent of children get their supply of cigarettes from vending machines.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. In the survey to which he referred, the children were asked where they “usually” purchased and where they “often” purchased their cigarettes. They were given a choice of 14 locations. The total number of answers to those questions amounted to 227 per cent, because inevitably some people gave more than one answer to some questions. So, if my maths are correct, adjusting downwards to 100 per cent the gross figure of 17 per cent would become 7.5 per cent. Furthermore, the noble Lord keeps referring to the word “usually” but the word on the questionnaire was “often”. I think that we should be accurate in relation to these surveys.
I do not think that my argument depends on 17 per cent being the precise figure. My argument is that many children are able to, and currently do, purchase cigarettes from vending machines wherever they happen to be.
The Department of Health, in association with business and commercial bodies, has issued guidance that recommends that vending machines should be located within the sight of a supervisory person at the bar. That does not seem to be borne out by colleagues from the British Heart Foundation who did a short pub crawl around this area last Tuesday or Wednesday and identified two pubs within walking distance of here where the vending machine was not in the line of sight of someone behind the bar. If the Minister wishes to check this out for herself, it is much nearer than Saskatoon. As things stand at the moment, the guidance does not seem to be working. In a busy pub with five doors and which is crowded at different times of the day, it is quite easy to see how children, particularly those who look 15 or 16 rather than 10 or 11, can get in and get cigarettes. Whatever the precise figure is, there is sufficient evidence that a number of children do that.
The other route to curb this is to have a system of an age ID card. I do not have any hard figures but we probably underestimate the skill of our children if we think they will not be able to get around it. This has been introduced in a number of countries, including Germany—there is also an article on it in the Irish Times—but some surveys suggest that these kinds of mechanisms generally do not work. However, I do not want to put too much weight on those surveys because they are not yet complete.
In order to preserve vending machines we are trying to set up systems which will not work very effectively and will have loopholes that will allow children still to be able to purchase cigarettes. We are making life much more complicated than we need to when a simple solution is available to the Minister: that is, to prohibit the sale of tobacco in cigarette machines. Adults who are disadvantaged can easily go somewhere else, and that may well benefit the small corner shop. She does not need to be brave to go down this route because the amendment is in line with all other government legislation on this kind of issue, in line with much of what our European neighbours do and, so far as we can tell, in line with public opinion. I beg to move.
I strongly support the amendment for several reasons. It is slightly worrying that the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, is supporting as a good thing the findings of a survey which found that children under the age of 18 are smoking. I do not think anyone is arguing that we should deregulate smoking to include under-18s. The problem is that when under-18s start smoking, the addictive potential is extremely high. That is precisely why the tobacco companies have a great interest in very young people smoking.
The Minister referred earlier to the report from the Royal College of Physicians that compared the addiction factor of nicotine to that of other drugs. Nicotine came top when compared with heroin, cocaine, alcohol and caffeine in terms of dependence among users; equal top in terms of difficulty in obtaining abstinence; equal top in terms of tolerance, that is, the need for a higher and higher dose to get the same effect; and top in terms of its serious effects on society through deaths from cigarette-related diseases.
The point made by my noble friend Lord Crisp is that although vending machines account for only 1 per cent of all sales, they account for 17 per cent of all sales to the under-18s.
There is no point in having a debate in Committee when we both refer to the same survey and one refers to returns of 227 per cent which must be apportioned—the noble Baroness is a scientist—down to 100 per cent. Therefore it is 7.5 per cent. Furthermore, is she not encouraged that that is one-third down on the previous survey in 2004? It is too high, I agree, but let us have the right figure.
I am delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, say that it is too high. On that, we certainly agree. I do not think that we should start hurling data at each other across the Committee any more than has already happened.
We would never contemplate alcohol or fireworks being sold in vending machines. Vending machines are easily accessed by youngsters. In an exercise carried out in Solihull in September 2008 where a 16 year-old was commissioned, if you like, by the council to see what could happen, the 16 year-old was able to buy 100 cigarettes from five different cigarette vending machines in Knowle and Solihull town centre without being challenged. In Bournemouth, trading standards officers carried out a similar undercover operation and found that a 15 year-old could buy cigarettes from seven out of eight vending machines without being challenged. In one case, the owner even helped the boy to find some change.
Our main concern must be for the long-term health of young people, the under-18s. This move would cut off a ready source, an easy source for them to access tobacco, which has a high addictive potential and will therefore hook them for the rest of their lives. It will not harm the small shop keeper, as has already been said. In fact, I would have expected small shop keepers to be flooding the Committee with welcome for the amendment. As has been said, those machines can take boxes of a certain size into which anything could be put. We should not have this debate, but, for the record, contraception being more readily available to youngsters to avoid unplanned pregnancy would certainly have my support; but having tobacco in those machines does not.
The noble Lord who moved the amendment asserted that adults who wanted to buy cigarettes could easily get them from somewhere other than vending machines. That is by no means always the case. Many cheaper hotels, chain hotels of a type such Travelodges—not merely those but other, larger hotels in city centres that cannot afford the heavy overtime costs associated with keeping the reception desk or the bar manned all through the night—have vending machines because they often effectively close down completely between 9 pm and 7 am. Children do not normally go into hotels to look for vending machines. Noble Lords supporting the amendment should reflect on that fact and consider compromising by accepting the excellent Amendment 90 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Howe.
I want to argue a very different case, which has little to do with children and a lot more to do with adults and vending machines. I had my last cigarette 24 hours before I went into Saint Bartholomew's Hospital in London with a tumour on the lung in 1996. I lost half my lung capacity, which meant that three nodes were lost during the course of the operation.
I mention that because I spent four years desperately trying to stop, lying to friends, ever denying that I was smoking, desperate to buy cigarettes in small quantities, which I could not. An amendment may turn up on Report that deals with the ability to buy cigarettes in small quantities, to which I would be sympathetic because of my problem: whenever I wanted to buy any cigarettes, I had to buy 10. I think that we should make it as difficult as possible for people to buy cigarettes, especially those people who are trying to stop. I remember going out at midnight or one o’clock in the morning, getting in my car and driving around the town looking for any source of cigarettes that I could purchase to deal with my problem—the problem of desperately trying to stop.
I am not alone. I have talked to many people over the years who have tried to stop. We all know people who are trying to stop. We buy patches; we buy all kinds of things. The availability of cigarettes in machines makes it very difficult for those who want to stop, because invariably they find out where they are. I would firmly support any amendment to restrict availability to people who are in the position I was in at that time.
I, too, support the amendment. I always find it slightly illogical that we have reached a point where there is no smoking in public places, yet still there are vending machines in hotels, restaurants and pubs where you cannot smoke what you have bought from those vending machines. That means that you will have to go out anyway, and there is usually a corner shop not that far away whose business could be enhanced.
I used the phrase “public places”. I am also concerned about age-verification systems, because those who say that we can deal with the matter by providing ID cards should know that ID checks are still not being carried out stringently enough on alcohol sales. According to Home Office figures, in 2004, 22 per cent of 10 to 17 year-olds who had drunk alcohol had obtained it from bars and pubs; 34 per cent of on-trade venues failed to check ID cards for young people. If a significant number of under-18s are still able to obtain alcohol from pubs and bars, it is highly questionable that an ID-based age verification system will be sufficiently foolproof to stop underage tobacco sales from vending machines.
I also support the noble Lord in relation to adults. Although I tend to concentrate on children, many people have talked to me about their wish to give up smoking to enhance their health, but they are perpetually faced by temptation through displays and the ease of access of vending machines. We all know what it is like when you are trying to give up chocolate and it is there on the station. That is true of cigarettes, too.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said that he had seen the report in the Irish Times. The issue was that vending machines were being changed to operate with tokens. The study noted that in 79 per cent of premises where the vending machines were token operated, thereby requiring the purchaser to buy tokens first from a staff member, minors—that is under-18s—were prevented from buying cigarettes, while in only 24 per cent of premises where machines were coin-operated were minors stopped from buying tobacco. Although this is not in the amendment, perhaps at Report we should bring in an amendment to make sure that vending machines can be token operated. That would stop it.
I support the amendment, but I confess that as a child I was in love with vending machines. I do not know whether any noble Lords can remember those rusting and out-of-use Cadbury vending machines on railway stations. My mother used to say that before the war you could get a bar of chocolate out of those machines for a penny. I do not know whether that gave me a lifelong aversion to war, but I certainly remember vending machines very fondly. The love affair continued into my medical student days when often the only cigarettes available late at night, when one had finished work, were from a vending machine. They were usually Embassy, and they were awful, but they were from a vending machine somewhere in a dark backstreet. So I support what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours said. If you want to give up, you can always find a cigarette somewhere, and a vending machine is usually the source.
I support the amendment because children, as we have heard, find it very easy to get cigarettes from vending machines. I should add another point; I knew a teenager who used to brag about how he could get two packets for the price of one, because he was good at operating the drawer of the vending machine. He never taught me how to do it, as I had given up smoking long before then. Young teenagers find vending machines a challenge, and they brag about how they can get stuff out of them. There is no need. If an adult wants to get his cigarettes and it is late at night, our shops do not close at 5.30 any more. There are even shops that operate for 24 hours. You can always get whatever you want at any time of day. There is therefore no excuse to have something that is so dangerous to people’s health available from a vending machine.
I support the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in her remarks about condoms. I well remember, as a local councillor, trying to introduce a condom vending machine in our local college. The opposition to that was tremendous: it would pollute our youth, it would make them ill; I do not know what else a condom vending machine would do to them. But, of course, cigarette machines were easily available all over the borough. I rest my case.
Whenever I am able to escape from your Lordships’ House, I thoroughly enjoy playing a game of golf. I know four golf clubs in north Northumberland where there are vending machines in the clubhouse, freely accessible to the children who come and play golf. There is no way any control could be exercised on the purchase of cigarettes from those machines because there is no way that the steward of the club could be able to see all the time what was happening at the machines. The clubs sell cigarettes even though it is no longer possible to smoke within the clubhouse because of the recent legislation, and I have seen many children purchasing cigarettes from those machines.
Although I put my name to Amendment 92, I believe that the only solution to this problem is the total ban of the sale of tobacco products from vending machines. That is something to which I would give my warmest possible support.
I have also added my name to nearly all the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and I commend him for the way in which he introduced the amendment earlier. This is one of those cases where the Committee wishes to go a little further than the Government seem ready to, and I rather hope that when my noble friend reports back to her colleagues on how this debate has gone today—and how I suspect it will go again on Report—the Government will be willing to look at the possibility of a complete ban, rather than this halfway house of a system of tokens, age restrictions for the issuing of them and so on.
As other speakers have told the Committee, children are extraordinarily ingenious in getting around technical obstacles that to most of us would be insuperable. I have no doubt that the copying of tokens and the begging and borrowing of them would be a great sport for young people who wanted to get their cigarettes from vending machines in future. It would be so much easier if we followed the practice of 22 other countries—which is about to include Scotland as well—and say that cigarette vending machines have had their day and we do not want them any more.
Amendments 87, 89, 91 and 96, ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, would make a number of changes to the provisions in Clause 20 relating to the regulation of tobacco vending machines in England and Wales. With one exception, Amendments 97 to 103 would make equivalent changes to mirror them in Clause 21, relating to the regulation of tobacco vending machines in Northern Ireland. Since those groups have the same effect on Clauses 20 and 21, I will speak to them all.
The main effect would be to compel the Government to prohibit tobacco vending machines, as outlined by my noble friend in his last contribution. In this instance, and at the moment, we believe that we need to take a proportionate approach, giving vending machine operators and owners an opportunity to prevent underage sales before prohibiting tobacco sales altogether— notwithstanding the invitation from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, to go on a pub crawl to see how these work.
The groups of amendments would make a number of changes and I shall take each in turn. First, a number of them would create an absolute duty on the appropriate Ministers, compelling them to ban tobacco vending machines outright. We have amendments, which will be discussed shortly, to remove the power to ban vending machines, and amendments that would simply ban them. We believe that at the moment we should take a middle road. It may help if I explain how we intend to use the powers in England.
We agree with the principle of the amendments—that we must prevent underage sales from tobacco machines. I was struck by the contribution of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, who said that there was also a need to support adults who try to give up smoking, notwithstanding the love affair of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, with vending machines. We intend to bring in regulations to restrict access to vending machines by children and young people under 18, while maintaining this source of cigarettes for adults. We intend these restrictions to apply from 2011. However, we will review the effectiveness of the new requirements over a period of two years following implementation. If it appears that restrictions are not successful in preventing underage purchases, we will reconsider moving to ban the sale of tobacco products from vending machines altogether.
The approach that I have outlined to the Committee clearly requires both options to be available—for regulations either to impose requirements or to prohibit tobacco vending machines. In this respect, therefore, it is vital that the powers remain discretionary, but I assure noble Lords that, as a minimum, powers to regulate vending machines will certainly be used.
The noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, referred to token-operated machines. In determining how to take forward regulations to require age-check mechanisms for tobacco vending machines, we will explore international evidence to compare the effectiveness and practices of different methods of age restriction. As the noble Baroness mentioned, a number of European member states have introduced age-restriction mechanisms on vending machines, and we shall seek to learn from their experience to ensure that our age restrictions are applied effectively in preventing underage sales.
Amendments 92 and 100 would add explicit powers for regulations to make exemptions from the prohibition of vending machines. If the aim is to exempt certain types of vending machine, or certain types of premises where they are located, then the amendments are not needed. New Section 3A(7) in Clause 20 already allows us to make exemptions in regulations for particular cases, should we decide that that is appropriate.
Currently we do not see the case for any exemptions but we do not rule them out. In determining how to take forward the detailed requirements for age-check mechanisms, we will seek the opinions of stakeholders, such as the National Association of Cigarette Machine Operators, and we will listen and give serious consideration to any case that is made for exemptions—for example, premises that are open only to those over the age of 18.
I note that Amendment 90 is due to be discussed next and that that touches on this issue. We see practical difficulties here but perhaps we should defer discussion until the noble Earl, Lord Howe, moves his amendment.
Next come Amendments 95 and 103. These create duties on appropriate Ministers to consult persons likely to be affected by the regulations before making them. I am happy to agree that open consultation is an important principle and I am pleased to be able to give reassurance on this. However, I wonder why it is felt necessary to consult when the other amendments would do away with tobacco vending machines altogether. In that case, what would we consult about?
The Government will work with trade bodies, enforcement organisations and other stakeholders to inform the development of secondary legislation. We then intend to conduct a full three-month formal public consultation on draft regulations following Royal Assent. This would give business both certainty and ample preparation time by laying regulations as early as possible and, in any event, well before the first commencement dates due in 2011.
In England, officials in the Department of Health are already working with their colleagues in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on arrangements for these initial discussions. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety also intends to carry out a full three-month formal public consultation on the draft regulations and is fully committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the implementation of the proposed new measures.
In recognition of the importance of these measures, all regulations relating to vending machines in England, Wales or Northern Ireland would be subject to approval by affirmative resolution of Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly, so ensuring an appropriate opportunity for scrutiny and debate.
Lastly, I come to Amendment 96, which is the exception. It applies only to Clause 20 and has no mirror in Clause 21 in relation to Northern Ireland. This amendment would remove subsection (2), which makes a breach of the regulations on tobacco vending machines a “tobacco offence” for the purposes of restricted premises and restricted sales orders. I understand that if we have no power to impose requirements, this provision may appear unnecessary. However, it would still be needed in respect of any breach of a future prohibition on tobacco vending machines, particularly if there are exemptions to an outright ban.
These orders are part of a new system of “negative licensing” which aims to tackle those retailers who persistently sell tobacco to underage people. We will discuss this system in further detail when we discuss Amendment 106 concerning positive licensing. Suffice it to say for now that these orders may be applied to those retailers shown to have made underage sales at least three times over a period of two years. This is a last-resort action for trading standards officers to apply for when they have exhausted other avenues such as training and guidance. The aim of the system is to stop underage sales of tobacco.
We believe that it is appropriate to include breaches of the new offence relating to vending machines because clearly a breach of a requirement aimed at preventing underage sales is relevant. Such a breach is highly likely to have resulted in sales actually being made to young people under 18. For those reasons, I cannot accept the amendment and I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I understand that she is being cautious in reaching a rather poor compromise rather than going for full prohibition straight away. Frankly, I do not understand why she feels she needs to do that. It does not seem to me that it is in the interests of small shop keepers. It is not in the interests of smokers, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said. As someone who has given up smoking at least 20 times—for the past 20 years, successfully—I understand precisely that having cigarettes available in a bar makes it too convenient to get hold of them. Further, it does not seem to prevent underage people getting hold of cigarettes.
I come back to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, and the article from the Irish Times which she has just handed to me. Restrictions introduced to stop children gaining access to cigarettes and vending machines may work in the first instance, but we underestimate children. They will rapidly learn to get round those restrictions, however complicated we make them. The normal lures of the market economy will apply. I would not be surprised if children soon began to trade in tokens in playgrounds and schools. That is what always happens in these situations. We will get into an escalating arms race, as it were, introducing ever more complicated methods to try to stop children using these machines, and children will get a cracking education in learning how to get round the restrictions we introduce. Therefore, I do not see the point in the caution. I hope that the noble Baroness will reconsider it between now and Report. Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 87 withdrawn.
88: Clause 20, page 25, line 4, leave out “prohibiting or”
Bearing in mind the debate we have just had, I can be relatively brief on my amendment. It states that vending machines should be regulated, not prohibited. I have two key points to add to what was said in that debate. First, I, too, will welcome the day when no young people smoke. I congratulate the Government; the percentage of young people smoking is falling. I quoted from the survey that showed that between 2004 and 2006 the incidence of young people had fallen by one-third. That is good progress, although further progress is needed. Conversely—and I find this worrying, as I mentioned in my earlier speech, and my noble friend on the Front Bench has mentioned it—the main sources for those young people who still smoke are other people and illicit buying from people who have smuggled cigarettes in and are selling them off cheap at boot fairs and so on. If the Government want to reduce smoking among our young people still further, those two sources have to be tackled. My noble friend has put forward an amendment in relation to adults buying on behalf of young people. We have talked about alcohol; that is a key area that the Minister needs to take seriously. The second area, smuggling and illicit supplies, needs to be cracked down on by Her Majesty’s Customs.
Secondly, can regulation work? That was the implication of the Minister’s response to the previous amendment, and that is encouraging. No one suggests that this whole thing is working beautifully on the ground but it was interesting that here, in London, Trading Standards carried out a vigorous enforcement action. It has an intensive programme of activities, including letters and personal visits, aimed at those premises whose compliance with underage legislation was poor. The organisation then went back after a period of time to check whether or not there was compliance from those sources and, quite remarkably, it got a 100 per cent compliance rate. If you have good, strict regulation you can get compliance, and you can make it difficult for those who do not comply. There was a similar story in Wales. Obviously other parts of the country are failing, and I suggest to the Government that it is high time that they cracked down on those local authorities that are not putting the same energy into this as London and Wales.
I look to the department for a proportionate response and to see the regulations being enforced properly, and the Minister indicated that that was going to happen. There is still a threat of prohibition—even the Minister’s tone of voice goes up a bit when that word comes in—and there is a problem: if there is an emphasis on possible prohibition, people will not put in the investment that will be required to ensure that they shift the machines round a bit, or whatever. I hope that the Minister will put her emphasis on good regulation and see that it happens. At this stage, my amendment would delete the word “prohibition”. I beg to move.
I shall speak to my Amendment 90, which is grouped here. I view the Government’s proposals on vending machines in a very different light from those relating to point-of-sale displays. There is a real issue regarding vending machines, which is that young people frequently have access to them. It is a clear means whereby the law on sales to minors can be circumvented, and I support the proposals to regulate in this area.
What I do not support, however, is preventing adult smokers from purchasing cigarettes from vending machines if they wish to do so. Vending machines are an expensive way of buying cigarettes but it should be open to an adult smoker to use this route. I do not want to detain the Committee by dwelling on the ground so ably covered by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and my noble friend in the last group of amendments, but there are some 70,000 vending machines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, most of them in licensed premises such as pubs and clubs, and there is a voluntary code which is supposed to ensure that machines are located in areas that are supervised and monitored to prevent them being accessed by those who are under age. That code is clearly not adequate for the purpose; we know that many young people buy from vending machines. Quite how many is a matter for debate but the impact assessment to the consultation concludes that about 7.5 per cent of schoolchildren often obtain cigarettes from machines. That is not an acceptable state of affairs and it is clear that more needs to be done.
More has been done in terms of enforcement penalties in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, but there need to be additional measures to make it even harder for young people to access tobacco from these machines. The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, referred to the technological means by which this could be achieved, in particular ID cards. I understand there are also ID coin systems and remote control. I am not qualified to judge whether these systems are likely to work well enough to achieve the desired purpose of eliminating illegal sales, but they are certainly likely to make an impact. ID cards, for example, are in use in a number of other countries.
The Government have stated, and the Minister has repeated today, that they intend to make regulations, to take effect in 2011, which would introduce age-restriction mechanisms, and these regulations would be given two years in which to prove themselves. If after that time they have not done so and underage sales from machines persist, the Government reserve the right to regulate for a complete ban on tobacco vending machines. I am unhappy about this. There are locations which, of their very nature, are accessible only by adults—for instance, members-only clubs and similar establishments. The case does not seem to have been made for banning cigarette machines from such places. Like my noble friend Lord Naseby, I should like to hear the Minister’s reasons for leaving this possibility open.
The amendments would remove the power to prohibit tobacco vending machines and limit regulations so that they could apply only to machines to which persons under the age of 18 are likely to have access. As we debated under the previous group of amendments, Clause 20 provides that regulations may prohibit or impose requirements on tobacco vending machines.
I agree that it is important that the impact of new legislation on business is justifiable and is seen to be a proportionate response to the problem. I have already explained that our intention therefore is for regulations to first restrict access to vending machines by children while maintaining them as a source of tobacco or cigarettes for adults. We wish to give the tobacco vending machine suppliers and operators ample opportunity to make changes to eradicate under-age sales of cigarettes from their machines, so these restrictions will not apply until 2011. Let me be clear that if measures to stop young people buying cigarettes from vending machines are successful there will be no need for the Government to use the power to prohibit vending machines. However, we are committed to protecting children and young people from accessing tobacco, and if the restrictions fail to prevent underage purchases, we will then move to ban cigarette vending machines altogether. But we will allow at least two years’ operation before considering whether a complete prohibition of tobacco vending machines would be justified. In effect, those who operate vending machines or have them on their premises have from now until at least 2013 to show that who are able to stop children buying cigarettes from their machines.
The evidence to justify action is clear: vending machines are the usual source of cigarettes for 17 per cent of the 11 to 15 year-olds who smoke. The British Heart Foundation estimates that 46,000 under-16 year-olds purchased cigarettes from vending machines in 2006 in England alone. It is therefore important that we retain the power to prohibit tobacco vending machines without further primary legislation should it be shown to be necessary.
I should point out, as have other noble Lords, that vending machines supply only 1 per cent of the adult cigarette market, so a complete prohibition on this sort of purchase would not, we believe, seriously inconvenience adult smokers as there would still be many alternative retail outlets from which they would be able to carry on buying cigarettes. It is important that we use this opportunity to take the power to prohibit tobacco vending machines, should we need to do so in the light of experience with a more limited approach. I cannot therefore accept Amendment 88.
Amendment 90 limits regulation-making powers to only those machines likely to be accessed by children; and I can appreciate the argument that if the aim is to tackle underage sales, it may not be necessary to impose requirements on tobacco vending machines that no one under 18 can use. First, however, I should like to take this opportunity to mention that new subsection 3A(7) already provides a power for regulations to make different provisions for different classes of case or circumstances. This power allows us to make exemptions, should we decide that that is appropriate.
I appreciate that some tobacco vending machines are in pubs and clubs that limit entry to patrons or members who are 18 or over. If we can be absolutely certain that young people would always be asked for proof of age before entering a particular premises, I can see that it could be argued that further requirements on how vending machines operate in such premises might seem unnecessary. But when we consider how this would work in practice, the risks and the burdens for enforcement become clear. First, how would we know which premises to exclude? There would need to be a process for premises to provide the necessary evidence and assurance that they consistently operate robust and reliable age-limiting policies and procedures whenever they are open to the public, and I am aware that club premises primarily used in the evenings or later at night may also be available for use during the daytime, which might mean that younger people are allowed access.
Secondly, there is the question of enforcement. Who will be responsible for deciding whether the premises were liable under the law or not? Local trading standards officers, perhaps, which would add to the burden and work of local authorities. Thirdly, what would happen if the age policy changed in the club? Would we need an offence of failure to notify a change in circumstances, and again who would keep track of such changes and take on the extra work that this would involve? The system would be rather difficult and burdensome on local enforcement authorities, and in addition it would be inflexible. We found that allowing such exemptions was proving ineffective in reducing underage tobacco sales. Under this amendment, our hands would be tied and we would be unable to bring those premises into the scope of the regulations without further primary legislation.
As I have explained, there is already a power in new subsection 3A(7) which would allow us to make exemptions or to impose different requirements in relation to different types of premises, should we decide that this is appropriate. So I do not rule it out at this stage. I remind noble Lords that in recognition of the importance of these measures, all regulations relating to vending machines in England and Wales would be subject to approval by affirmative resolutions of Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales as appropriate. Parliament would then have the opportunity to debate further whether a ban on tobacco vending machines would be justified. For these reasons I am not able to accept the amendment and hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
I am most grateful to the Minister for what is quite a full answer. She is right to draw attention to the opportunity given to the House by the affirmative resolution procedure. I suppose my only plea to her is that her department should consult with London Trading Standards, which has clearly done a lot of effective work in this area, and hopefully learn from that experience. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 88 withdrawn.
Amendments 89 to 96 not moved.
Debate on whether Clause 20 should stand part of the Bill.
I apologise for interrupting very briefly. In answer to an earlier question—I may be quoting her incorrectly and I apologise if I am, and indeed Hansard will prove otherwise—I understood the Minister to say that she and her Government were restricted in their contacts with the tobacco industry. Is it not a fact that the Department of Health states in its guidelines that they do not prohibit appropriate engagement between Government and the tobacco industry or its representatives, but suggest that any contact that could be deemed as interference in the development of tobacco control policy should not be permitted? Perhaps I could ask the Minister to look at what she did say and see how it resolves itself in relation to what I have just quoted.
Clause 20 agreed.
Clause 21 : Power to prohibit or restrict sales from vending machines: Northern Ireland
Amendments 97 to 103 not moved.
Clause 21 agreed.
Clause 22 agreed.
104: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco usage
(1) The Secretary of State shall report to Parliament by 2010 on a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco usage.
(2) The report shall contain an assessment of efforts to reduce the amount of smuggled tobacco sold in UK shops.”
I suggest the insertion of a new clause, as is pretty clearly stated in the Marshalled List. There have been a lot of comments today about piecemeal legislation, with things happening one year, then a little bit of legislation the next, and so on. Many feel that legislation has already gone too far in the banning of tobacco while some, like me, think that it has not yet gone far enough and that people should be discouraged even further from smoking tobacco. The Government may not accept any of the amendments that have been tabled during the course of the Bill, although I hope that they will reflect on them and make the Bill stronger by doing so.
It is patently obvious that in two years’ time, at the maximum, the Government should come up with a full strategy for the control of tobacco. It should be comprehensive and all-embracing so that everyone knows just where the Government are going and what they want to do about the issue of tobacco. Added to that, we need to know what is happening on the tobacco-smuggling front. That has been mentioned now and then in Committee, but we still do not have any clear evidence whether these measures will increase or decrease smuggling, or of what will happen. A strategy is needed, and we are proposing that by 2010 that strategy should be produced.
On a personal note, I wish that we could move ahead to a royal commission on all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, commented earlier that we are saying that tobacco is more dangerous than cannabis; indeed, I think it is. We need to look at all the drugs that are available and consider all options for the control of drugs, including tobacco and alcohol. I hope that the Government will consider that in preparing their strategy.
I support the amendment. I shall speak to my Amendment 107A, and I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rea and Lord Judd, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who support it.
I agree that we need a comprehensive strategy that encompasses all the issues relating to smoking and its reduction, particularly in the young. Throughout the world, the best tobacco-control interventions are those that are part of a clear, evidence-based plan that comprehensively addresses supply and demand alongside the problem of second-hand smoke. If we are to continue to drive down the prevalence of smoking and ensure that the legislation achieves all that it can to prevent youth smoking in particular, the measures proposed in the Bill must be part of a comprehensive strategy.
Internationally and domestically, comprehensive strategies have been shown to be the most effective means to reduce smoking prevalence. The steady fall in smoking prevalence since 1998 in the UK can be attributed to the series of interventions which resulted from the publication of Smoking Kills and the additional funding that accompanied it. Internationally, that model has also found success. There are plenty of examples, Canada and New York being the key ones. Smoking Kills had a broad vision that is still necessary to address the enduring problems of health inequalities, youth uptake of smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke and the levels to which some groups are addicted to nicotine.
Ambitious targets are needed. The targets from Smoking Kills have largely been met, but we need new targets to address the heavy inequalities caused by smoking, smuggling and the continuing problem of exposure to second-hand smoke. The key area is evaluation and reporting. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Smoking Kills was the absence of an evaluation plan. It is vital that any new strategy should have a plan for evaluation running through it from the start. When we embark on innovative public health policy, we are morally bound to evaluate it. I make a plea for the Government to produce a strategy that encompasses all that in one plan spanning a period of time with clear time lines and ways to evaluate how successful the strategy is. I emphasise the need to have an evaluation strategy built in from the outset, an oversight panel of health experts and other stakeholders, from which we should exclude the tobacco industry, and clear milestones with opportunities to review the various components.
I shall speak to proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 104 when we reach Amendment 105, because I think that there is a direct link between plain packaging and smuggling tobacco.
I return to my experience in the early 1990s when I was trying to stop smoking. I wanted information on the effectiveness of the various options to help me to stop smoking, but that information was simply unavailable. I remember that on one occasion I was advised to go to Harley Street, and I went for hypnosis because I was told that that was a way to deal with it. I think that I wasted about £100. The point is that there was no authoritative source of information to guide me on whether to go for treatment in Harley Street and have hypnosis. I was advised that I should use patches. Again, the manufacturers of patches were very keen to tell us how wonderful they were, but I had no knowledge at the time, nor do I to this day, as to the incidence of success.
I remember being told that I could have acupuncture. I did not know whether acupuncture worked. Some people say that it does but, again, there was no authoritative source. I should have thought that any strategy document presented to Parliament would deal with the various options available to the public, enabling them choose which route they went down, given the options available.
If I recall correctly, in the mid-1990s, Frank Dobson introduced health action zones, where money was made available for anti-smoking strategies. An evaluation was done, but I remember reading the report from my health action zone. I never felt that the information that it provided was authoritative in the sense that it could pinpoint real success as against information that the health authority had gleaned and was using to justify the expenditure involved in the health action zone.
I should like to see in the report an explanation of the amount of money that has been put into research into helping people to stop smoking. I have always wondered why there was not a substitute drug on the market, which we could take in a pill or even an injection, to help us to stop smoking. If we can put a man on the moon, I cannot see why someone, somewhere has not been able to invent a product which would be a substitute for nicotine or smoking and which would enable us to run down. I understand that even to this day these products are not available. My sister has been trying to stop smoking for the past five years but she simply cannot stop.
I thought that nicotine patches were an effective substitute for nicotine addiction, but it is even more difficult to cure the addiction of wanting to use patches. There certainly needs to be something else—a dummy perhaps. Nicotine patches will substitute for cigarettes if it is nicotine that you are addicted to.
I wish I could convince my sister of that. She has had them and they have not worked. There are a lot of people out there who have found that they do not work. Maybe they do work but, again, where is the assessment; where is the leaflet which sets out all the options distributed; where is the report to Parliament which sets out in detail all the options and how effective they are? I strongly support the amendment. I hope that it deals with the options for those who are desperately trying to stop.
That was an amazing contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I preface my comments by saying that we have moved a long way. I am going back many years but I remember discussing in the Chamber nicotine patches and whether they should be available for free on the National Health Service. All that was pooh-poohed. I also remember a Member of the House who movingly spoke about being addicted to heroin or crack cocaine and managing to get off it through a lot of treatment. He still speaks openly about it, but he has never been able to get off smoking. The only time he was able to do so was through the sheer force of his wife’s power. Every time she became pregnant he stopped smoking, but after three children she decided that she did not want to go on with that option.
Similarly—I am generalising from the particular—my sister was an alcoholic. She was dried out but she still could not give up cigarettes. She said it was so much easier to go dry and not give up cigarettes. She eventually died of cancer, but even to within a year of her death she still could not do it.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made a very good point: there is a lot of information going around about what one can do about cancer—exercise, look after your diet, do not smoke, of course—and there is a great deal of emphasis on it. Similarly with heart disease: exercise, diet, do not smoke But no global statement is made by the health authorities and the Government—and why should it be made by them? The commentators in the newspapers who talk about lifestyles should say that smoking is the one thing we should all try to do something about. When listening to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, I jotted down that we need to support those people who realise it is an addiction and just cannot break it. Too often when we see people smoking we say, “Why do you not give up, for heaven’s sake? You know what it is doing. Every single cigarette you smoke is taking five minutes off your life”, but support is what they need, not criticism.
We need additional research into the means of stopping smoking. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, mentioned patches, and they have been effective for people who I know. However, no body of research or opinion is available to help people who desperately want to give up smoking that outlines the options and indicates which are best for those who have a certain lifestyle, work in a certain place or are overstressed. We need to encourage that because there is no question that smoking kills. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support the proposed strategy.
I offer my support for a comprehensive strategy. Indeed, my name is added to Amendment 107A, which proposes such a strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, spoke about youth. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, described how difficult it is to give up as an adult. We know that 80 per cent of smokers begin smoking when they are children. I would welcome a strategy that focused on what more we can do to prevent children smoking. Sixty-eight per cent of teenage mothers are smokers and 45 per cent of them smoke during their pregnancies. That must be a further way of holding them back, depriving their children of opportunity and perpetuating a cycle of deprivation. This country in particular needs to think about the welfare of its children. On many occasions my noble friend Lord Northbourne has raised in the House the difficulties experienced by families. The right honourable Iain Duncan Smith has reported on the difficulties that many of our families face. A recent UNICEF report placed us bottom of the developed world in terms of the welfare of children, with the United States just above us. The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry highlighted how many children are now growing up in the absence of one or other parent. A third of our 16 year-olds now live apart from their biological father. When parents are absent, overwhelmed or unprepared, society has to do more to give children the right lead. Given these difficulties, we need to think very carefully about how we can avoid children getting sucked into a lifetime habit which will be so harmful to themselves and to their children. I hope that the noble Baroness will give this amendment very serious consideration.
I am pleased to add my support to both these amendments, which are similar and have a common aim. I again declare an unpaid interest as a trustee of Action on Smoking and Health and as a patron of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, drew attention to the need for more research on ways to encourage people to stop smoking. Greater effort should also be made to determine the causes of lung cancer. It is very easy to say that it is a self-inflicted smoking disease and therefore that there is no point in carrying out research on it. However, that is not entirely the case. A lot of medical research is carried out—a lot is carried out at the University of Liverpool—into the causes of lung cancer, particularly as regards its prevalence. It is done very much on a shoestring. There is very little funding for that research from the Department of Health. However, it is an important part of a complete strategy to tackle smoking.
As others have said, we have made remarkable progress in the 11 years since Smoking Kills was published. The fact that smoking prevalence in England is now down to 22 per cent, compared with between 25 and 30 per cent 20 years ago, shows that the measures we have pushed through Parliament have made a terrific difference; for example, the introduction of the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship and the major reforms introduced in the most recent Health Act. However, although these prevalence rates are good for those of us who like going to restaurants, bars or public places and being in a smoke-free environment, they mask the fact that the social inequalities around the smoking prevalence figures are still enormous. Smoking prevalence rates are still 60, 70 or 75 per cent in some communities, particularly poor, working-class areas in the north of England. The message has not got through to them. A new, comprehensive strategy must take account of smoking inequalities and address communities where that is a real issue.
Certainly, one of the most important parts of a strategy is what we are attempting to do in this Bill, which is to discourage young people from starting smoking. Some countries have achieved dramatic reductions in that regard. Canada and New York were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Canada went from a prevalence of 30 per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent in 2006, and there is a prediction that it could go as low as 12 per cent by 2011. That shows what can be done if you address your mind to it. However, any action has to be taken across all sections of the community and, in particular, it must address the poorer sections of the community to whom normal health education messages are not getting through.
I hope very much that we will see a new strategy document from the Government. We need to bring Smoking Kills up to date and we need to look at new ways of encouraging people not to start and to give up if they are addicted. Smoking is a legal activity, it is what people want to do, and there is nothing in these measures or in the Bill to prevent that. However, we have a duty to try to help people to give up and we also have a duty to help children not to start smoking. A comprehensive strategy should include those items in particular.
I think that it is a very good amendment. We have been dealing with this problem piecemeal over a long period. I think that the tobacco manufacturers and others who are concerned with the sale of tobacco should know where they are going. A 10-year programme would help those organisations and would necessitate a thorough examination into all the claims that are made about tobacco, for and against. For example, we could establish what information was accurate and what information was not, and what science was good and what science was junk. There is quite a bit of junk science around the tobacco industry.
We would have to consult all those people, including tobacco manufacturers and purveyors of tobacco, about what would happen to them and what they could do to help, and of course we would also have to consult the medical profession and statistical organisations. I think that we should also look at any benefits that there might be. I have to tell the Committee that, when I was very young and suffered from a bit of constipation, I went to see the doctor, who said, “What you should do is sit on the lavatory and smoke a cigarette. That would help a lot”. However, that was a long time ago and I am still here. As I said, we should then be able to test all sorts of assertions.
In relation to nicotine patches, I have a friend of 85 who has been smoking all her life. She thought that she ought to give it up but found it difficult and she started using nicotine patches. Now, she is addicted to the patches. Some people find it very difficult indeed.
There are all sorts of things about tobacco which we should know, and I think that the amendment would provide the opportunity to find out about them. The tobacco manufacturers would not worry about this—I think that they would be pleased. There has been some criticism of tobacco manufacturers. There seems to be some idea that reducing, and eventually eliminating, the smoking of cigarettes will hurt BAT. It will not be hurt by that at all. It will sell cigarettes to people in Africa, China and what have you. It now sells so many products that it will make no difference at all to that company. I welcome the amendment and hope that the Government will accept it.
I support these two amendments, in particular Amendment 107A, to which I have put my name. I was particularly struck by a part of Amendment 104 on which we have not dwelt very much, which makes an important reference to smuggled tobacco. That issue needs a lot of attention.
We have all been making personal confessions about the problems and challenges that we have faced. All I can say is that we give up smoking in different ways. I was sitting with a pipe, to which I had progressed, one day, when its bowl dropped into the pint of beer in front of me. I said: “This is clearly a message from the gods. One or the other has to stop”. The beer did not. That is all I can say, and I have hardly smoked since. I was fortunate to have had a traumatic experience of that kind which brought my smoking to a halt.
What strikes me about the general tenor of the discussion is that there has been a lot of wisdom, because many factors bear in on the whole issue of smoking. I have an abiding affection for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, with whom I was privileged to share a desk for many years downstairs, before he decided to go off on an independent line on politics. Never once, as a committed smoker, did he ever inflict his smoking habits aggressively on me. He was extremely sensitive—
We cannot hear.
The noble Lord suggested that I left the Labour Party. Of course, I did not leave the Labour Party; I was expelled from the Labour Party because I supported decent Labour candidates on the A-list and B-list against Shaun Woodward—a defecting Tory who was parachuted into a safe Labour seat.
We can debate this issue some other time. All that I was going to say was that my noble friend—he was then my noble friend—was always extremely sensitive and never once inflicted in any unacceptable way his smoking habits on those of us who shared a room with him. There is a lot of sensitivity on all sides.
Very often there is a flaw in our approach to legislation. We embark on legislation, we pass it, but we do not actually give enough attention to evaluating by how far it has achieved its purpose. What I like about this amendment is that it is saying that we really should have a strategy for evaluating whether these particular steps that we are taking are actually achieving their purpose. I wish we did that more often. It is terribly important.
I must declare an interest from my self-education; one of my daughters was pioneering some years back a combined local authority and National Health Service project on persuading pregnant women and young mothers not to smoke. I was startled by two things that she said, because she was totally committed to the cause. She said: “You know, you do have to reflect on the realities with which I am sometimes faced. The first is that I work partly with young mothers, pregnant women, midwives, hospitals, training courses and the rest, but one of my biggest difficulties is working with general practitioners, many of whom do not take this issue as seriously as they should”. If we are serious about achieving results on smoking, there is an issue that needs to be part of a comprehensive strategy.
What made an even greater impression on me was when she said, “I have to face it that for some of these single mothers on limited means, living one hell of a life, their fag is the only enjoyment they really get in life—the only break they get”. This did not put her off her course, but she was suggesting that if we are going to make progress we have to look at the social context in which we are operating and at all the factors that have a bearing on the situation. What I like about the amendment is that it introduces that concept by saying, “Yes, we should make it more difficult to smoke; yes, there are all sort of ways that we can curb the easy availability of tobacco, which is, of course, a bad thing—but at the same time we really need to look (a) at whether we are achieving results, of course, but (b) at whether we are taking fully into account all the factors that we should be”. I commend those who drafted the amendments, and I hope that the Government will take them seriously.
I, too, support the amendments. This seems to be a therapeutic part of the evening where we are all letting out our personal experiences. At the age of 17 I tried really hard to smoke. I bought a wonderful holder that was black, sort of ebony, with a silver ring around it. I thought I looked so elegant; I wanted to be like Audrey Hepburn. Sadly, though, there was no way. I could not smoke; I never got to like it.
With regard to the amendments, it is a good idea to have a strategy. Governments are keen on strategies, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is right that we have the strategies but the implementation is difficult. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that one of the things the Government have tried to do is to get GPs involved. They have smoking cessation clinics, and their pay and QOF points are related to it. Pharmacists are now getting into smoking cessation clinics as well. Real attempts have been made.
My other point is about smuggling. In 2006-07 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimated that between 9 per cent and 17 per cent of cigarettes—that is a large gap, but I suppose it is hard to define—and between 48 per cent and 59 per cent of hand-rolling tobacco were smuggled. As a result, the Government lost revenue of between £2.8 billion and £4.1 billion. That is something that they should be tackling; we cannot afford, especially at this time when we are in such dire straits financially, to lose those sorts of sums of money. What action are the Government taking to try to stop the smuggling?
This point tracks back to what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said. I was relieved that he was actually on the side of the good and the great, as I always say, but I was pretty appalled by his final statements—I would not like to be associated with them, although I thought he was great on some of the issues—that it does not really matter if we all give up smoking here because BAT and Imperial Tobacco will be able to flog all the cigarettes they like to Africa and to Asia. I am sorry, but that is the impression that he created. The idea that we should be exporting—
What I thought I heard the noble Baroness say in her earlier intervention was a very important contribution to the debate. If one is to have a successful strategy, one needs to concentrate hard on promoting health and well-being so that people identify with having a better quality of life. It should not just be telling people what they cannot do, but showing them how much better their lives could be. A positive element must run through this, and again that is the argument in favour of a strategic approach.
It seems that a lot of the action the Government have already taken has been in support of different parts of the strategy, and it may be helpful if they were to produce, possibly in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, strategies on tobacco control because of irresponsible marketing to children in other countries, which is deeply abhorrent. Indeed, many speakers have focused on children and the next generation because it does not really matter if older people smoke; the damage has already been done. When they look like prunes, their legs are dropping off and they cannot get up the stairs, whether they carry on smoking or stop is not going to make a huge amount of difference. I say that because I am distressed by those times when patients, having developed lung cancer in particular, say that they have now stopped smoking. The only response is just not to reply because one wants to say, “It’s too late”. But damage to the baby in utero when the mother carries on smoking is crucial and we need to prioritise. Such prioritisation might also focus research money, which would be an important outcome.
As the only male Member of the Committee who smokes, I fully endorse both of these amendments. Interestingly, I may also be the only Member of the Committee whose GP smokes as well, but perhaps that is by the by. It was interesting to listen to the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because as a resident of Scotland there may be a leaf to be taken out of NHS Scotland’s guidelines on how to stop smoking. I think I am right in saying that there is now a 24-hour helpline which people can call for counselling and advice on how to give up.
Once again, I want also to mention the terrible problem of smuggled goods. Lots of figures have been bandied around and there is a wide margin, but the figures I was given last week suggest that the Treasury is losing some £3.8 billion a year. However much the Treasury loses, presumably it is absolute madness for it to lose anything at all. I, too, look forward very much to hearing what the Minister has to say.
I remind the Committee of what was said earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, and the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, about what goes on in schools. Some children sell cigarettes or there might be an exchange of coupons. Perhaps the noble Baroness could provide us with a note on what is currently being done to address smoking in schools, detailing the training of teachers and so forth. Further, with regard to newsagents, it occurs to me that they could become part of the strategy in terms of first reassuring them about the impact of these changes to their businesses, and then recognising that they are at the front-line in terms of dealing with children. Perhaps they might be incorporated into discussions with children who ask to buy cigarettes by telling them why it is so bad for them and why they should not start now. They might have a useful role in developing the things we have been discussing in the debate. Many newsagents are family businesses. People work extremely hard for their families in those businesses and they are concerned about the welfare of children.
I apologise to the Committee; I was in the Chamber for the Statement on the tragic events over the weekend in Northern Ireland. I missed the proposal to move these amendments, but I support them. I want to check a couple of thoughts with noble Lords which are for information purposes. First, I presume that there are UK-wide surveys and strategies to be worked out. My other point concerns smuggled tobacco being sold in UK shops. In Northern Ireland, where there is a lot of former paramilitary activity, smuggled tobacco is not sold in shops but on street corners and other socially unacceptable places. The issue has to be looked at more broadly than just on the basis of smuggled tobacco being sold in shops.
This has been an interesting and informative debate. I shall approach it in two major parts. The first is to talk about strategy and evaluation; the other is to talk about the Government’s work against the illicit tobacco trade.
Both Amendments 104 and 170A would create a duty on the Secretary of State to publish a comprehensive tobacco strategy, but they vary in the details that they would require. Amendment 104 would insert a new clause that would place a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to provide a report to Parliament by 2010 on a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco usage, including an assessment of efforts to reduce the amount of smuggled tobacco sold in UK shops. Amendment 107A also requires a strategy, but states that it should be published by 21 July this year and that it should include an evaluation programme for the strategy to be updated in the light of new evidence. It would also require the strategy to set various targets.
The amendments highlight an important point. I would not want the Committee to think that the new provisions for tobacco control introduced by the Bill are the whole story. The provisions are just one part of an overall government strategy to reduce the health harms from smoking.
The Committee will know that last year we published our Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control, a public consultation that received nearly 100,000 responses. The report of that consultation exercise was published in December. We made it clear that consultation was the first step towards developing a new national tobacco control strategy, and I am sure the Committee will be pleased to learn that I can confirm that the Government intend to publish a comprehensive strategy on the future of tobacco control before 2010—in fact, it will be issued later this year.
However, I would not want to commit in legislation that the new strategy be published by 21 July, as we need to leave adequate time for the strategy to be developed to take account of Parliament’s decisions regarding the tobacco proposals in this Health Bill, for example, and to take on board comments made during the course of our debates—for example, in the past hour of our discussion. When the strategy is published, the Secretary of State will make a Statement in the other place and copies will be placed in the House Libraries.
Before I address the illegal tobacco trade, perhaps I may respond to a few of the issues on the government strategy and points raised by noble Lords about stopping smoking. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, raised the NHS Stop Smoking Services. I agree that local NHS Stop Smoking Services provide excellent support to smokers in communities across the country. Recently, England was assessed as having one of the best smoking-cessation services in the world. Not only is nicotine replacement available on prescription from the NHS but most formats can be bought from shops, including supermarkets.
I am not sure whether we have a 24-hour helpline, but I intend to find out whether we do. We would certainly want to follow that example. I will write to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the detail of his remarks. I know that advice is available for teachers and in schools—it is part of the government strategy for health in schools—but I will make the detail of that available to him and other Members of the Committee.
My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours raised the issue of evidence and support to quit smoking. He is probably aware that progress has been made since he was making his attempts to stop smoking, but I do not doubt that it is a very difficult thing for people to do. If we are all telling our smoking stories, I stopped at the beginning of 1983. My husband and I did it together. It was not an easy thing and I know that if I had one fag, I would be back on 10 or 15 a day. It is an addiction that is not easy to beat.
Over the past decade, the Government have delivered a very ambitious programme of tobacco control. We have set up an extensive network of local NHS stop-smoking services in communities across the country and have put high levels of investment into those services, which means that most of them have a fully resourced smoking cessation programme. We are running a marketing and communications programme that reaches out to millions of smokers. That gives them information on how to stop smoking and provides support in quitting. I think that the noble Lord said that there is no point in battering people with this; you have to give them support.
I agree with noble Lords—this was mentioned in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege—that tackling the illicit trade in tobacco will continue to be a vital element of the Government’s strategy. Relaxing the pressure would allow the illegal trade to undermine all the good work that we are doing and the investment that we are making across other areas in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of smoking and help smokers to quit. In particular, the availability of illicit tobacco is a significant factor in perpetuating health inequalities, and that alone makes it a top priority.
As noble Lords will be aware, the illicit share of the tobacco market is estimated to be 13 per cent, but more than half of hand-rolled tobacco is estimated to be illicit. That is why reducing the availability of these products is a priority for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the UK Border Agency and, at the retail level, local authority trading standards. We are not, and must not be, complacent.
The Government have already made significant progress in reducing the illicit tobacco market. Since the Government’s Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy was introduced in 2000, there has been an investment of over £200 million. We have cut the size of the illicit cigarette market share by a third; we have seized more than 14 billion illicit cigarettes and more than 1,000 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco in the UK and abroad; we have broken up over 370 criminal gangs; we have successfully prosecuted more than 2,000 people; and we have issued over £35million-worth of confiscation orders.
Tackling illicit tobacco remains a priority for the Government. In November 2008, we published Tackling Tobacco Smuggling Together, an integrated strategy for HM Revenue and Customs and the new UK Border Agency. I recommend that noble Lords look at this updated strategy to see how ambitious the Government are with regard to reducing the amount of illicit tobacco.
The new HMRC/UK Border Agency strategic partnership will be central to the future of the strategy, which is underpinned by these key principles: making it harder for smugglers to source tobacco; disrupting the supply and distribution chain; increasing the risks and reducing the rewards of smuggling; and tackling demand by raising public awareness. Under this partnership, HMRC is committed to strengthening its work with the police, local government and health and business stakeholders to tackle the demand for and supply of illicit tobacco. The Department of Health is working with HMRC to encourage collaboration in the fight against illicit trade, particularly at the local level, and is supporting the development of a new marketing strategy aimed at changing attitudes and behaviour around illicit tobacco.
We must recognise that tobacco smuggling is a global problem requiring global solutions. A detailed international protocol on illicit trade is being developed under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and HMRC is taking a lead role in its development. Nevertheless, it is important to note that very little smuggled tobacco is made available through formal retail channels; rather, it is available through other locations such as workplaces, car boot sales or even people’s own homes. I have to say that the Holloway Road, a route that I drive down, seems to be one of the main places. Therefore the second part of the amendment, relating to reporting on the sale of smuggled tobacco in UK shops, is likely to be of limited value.
Analysis by HMRC suggests that, today, most illicit cigarettes are counterfeit or non-UK brands. Enforcement authorities have the means to detect counterfeit cigarettes through covert anti-counterfeit markings, while fiscal markings now mean that it is very difficult for non-UK brands to infiltrate the legitimate retail sector. I reassure noble Lords that each year HMRC publishes an assessment of the illicit market share for cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco, which is the key measure of our success in tackling tobacco smuggling.
I turn to the issue of valuation targets. The Committee will be aware that progress in reducing the harm associated with smoking has been measured by public service agreements, and I am happy to say that the latest figures from 2007 show that we have met our targets for the overall adult population of 21 per cent. We are also on track to meet our target for the routine and manual group of 26 per cent. We need to build on this momentum to ensure that health inequalities are tackled and that the harms caused by smoking become something of the past.
We already collect a wealth of data on smoking behaviour in England, and we keep abreast of new research on how to protect people from the harms of smoking. The new strategy is being developed to make the best use of all the relevant information and data, and will be informed by the advice of academic experts. I hope that answers the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Patel.
In the light of that new evidence, Ministers will take a view on whether any further evaluation or target-setting is needed or warranted, given the need to keep to a minimum both costs and any burden associated with the collection of data. However, I assure the Committee that we will continue to be ambitious in bringing down smoking prevalence in the population. We will seek to apply the measures in the new strategy that are most likely to support that aim. I hope that those assurances are sufficient for the noble Lord to feel able to withdraw these amendments.
A quite extraordinary peace seems to have descended on the Moses Room; we may not have peace on earth, but we certainly have a temporary truce in here—until we get on to the next group of amendments. I thank the Minister for her thoughtful and comprehensive reply. I think I heard her say that the Government were going to produce a strategy report some time towards the end of this year that would also contain measures towards the curbing of the illicit trade in tobacco—if not the success rate, at least what the Government were hoping to do about it.
We need reminding, too, that the report would apply only to England. Presumably Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would be able to produce their own strategy.
Amendment 104 withdrawn.
Committee adjourned at 7.18 pm.