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Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill [HL]

Volume 820: debated on Friday 18 March 2022

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, this Bill extends the logic of health warnings on cigarette packs to the cigarettes themselves. If implemented, it would require both cigarettes and cigarette papers to display health warnings such as “Smoking kills”. This is likely to be particularly effective for dissuading children, who tend to start smoking with individual cigarettes rather than packs.

While England is undoubtedly among the most successful nations in the world at tackling the tobacco epidemic, we have tended to follow rather than lead when it comes to the implementation of bold policies to address this deadly addiction. The Bill gives us the opportunity to be the first, helping to cement our place as a world leader in tobacco control.

We know that only one-third of the 280 children who take up smoking every day in England will successfully quit, and another third will go on to die from smoking-related diseases. These cigarette warnings were one of the recommendations by the APPG on Smoking and Health for the forthcoming tobacco plan, which we discussed at a recent meeting with Javed Khan, the chair of the Government’s independent review into smoking. We were encouraged by his interest in all our recommendations, including this one, and we look forward to seeing his report, which is due to be published on 22 April.

While we could be the first to implement cigarette warnings, this is not a novel policy. I first proposed cigarette warnings as a Health Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the late 1970s. By 2024, I will have been in Parliament for 50 years. I hope I will not have to wait that long before this policy is introduced. I beg to move.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for his tireless efforts and creativity—over many decades, as we have heard—in tackling the negative effects of smoking on the health of individuals and communities. This is a considered and sensible Bill, and we are happy to support it today.

Additional health warnings at the point where people are about to smoke, on cigarettes and cigarette papers, is not a measure for its own sake; it is a further step towards helping to drive down smoking rates and indeed discourage people—especially the young, as the noble Lord referred to—from starting to smoke in the first place. By our doing this, people will have the chance to live longer and have healthier lives, and health inequalities between the richest and the poorest stand a chance of being reduced. For every smoker who dies, there are another 30 who are suffering from serious smoking-related diseases.

Just this week, on Report on the Health and Care Bill, your Lordships’ House voted in favour of a consultation to explore whether the “polluter pays” principle might be effective in the case of tobacco. This Bill seems to chime well with the mood about the direction that smoking legislation in the UK needs to go in. I wish the Bill every success and once again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham on progressing his Private Member’s Bill to this stage and securing this important debate. I am sure the many numbers of people who wish to quit smoking will also be grateful to my noble friend for his long-standing commitment to this cause, as my noble friend himself said, since his time as a Health Minister in the 1980s.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions today and at Second Reading, as well as during the debate on the Health and Care Bill when tobacco controls came up. Your Lordships’ continued engagement highlights how important this issue is and how it will continue to be an important issue for this House.

As I have stated before to this House, the Government are committed to reducing the harms caused by tobacco and are proud of the long-term progress that successive Governments of different parties have made in reducing smoking rates, which are currently, at 13.5%, the lowest on record. However, we cannot be complacent. With nearly 6 million smokers in England, smoking is still one of the largest drivers of health disparities and causes a disproportionate burden on our most disadvantaged families and communities.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have acknowledged that, as part of our plans to make England smoke free by 2030, we have commissioned the independent review into tobacco control, led by Javed Khan OBE. The Khan review has been asked to set up focused policy and regulatory recommendations for the Government on an evidence-led basis, including on what the most impactful interventions could be to reduce the uptake of smoking, particularly among young people, but also about how we support smokers in quitting for good. As my noble friend rightly said, we are hoping that this will be ready by the end of spring this year.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have met Mr Khan directly, sharing their ideas and allowing him to consider them and the proposal in the Bill among other reforms to encourage smokers to quit. The independent review will both inform the health disparities White Paper and support the development of a robust tobacco control plan. I have been assured—because I know noble Lords are not always keen on the phrase “in due course”—that the White Paper and the tobacco control plan will be published later this year.

Our plans will have a sharp focus on helping to level up society and support disadvantaged groups. As I hope many noble Lords will acknowledge, this Government are committed to tackling disparities. I am sure that noble Lords will probably get tired of the number of times that I have spoken about the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. We have to tackle those disparities. Where we know that the rates of smoking are highest, we truly want to make smoking a thing of the past. We want to have a healthier population as we build back better from the pandemic.

Once again, I thank my noble friend for this important debate. I thank all noble Lords, and I hope we can all work together to help to make England smoke free by 2030.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.