HC Deb 08 February 1965 vol 706 cc10-4
4 and 50. Mr. Francis Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Health (1) if he will take steps to prevent cigarettes being distributed free to young people by cigarette manufacturers, evidence of which has been brought to his attention by hon. Members;

(2) what further action Her Majesty's Government is proposing to take to reduce the dangers to health arising from cigarette smoking.

5. Mr. Buchan

asked the Minister of Health if he will introduce legislation to deal with new developments in cigarette advertising, involving free distribution of cigarettes and personal approaches to individuals in, for example, tea-rooms, evidence of which has been given him.

Mr. K. Robinson

The number of deaths from lung cancer in Great Britain continues to increase. During the first nine months of last year the provisional total was 20,850, an increase of nearly 5 per cent. over the same period in 1963.

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Education and Science and I are continuing and intensifying health education on the risks to health of cigarette smoking. Among other measures, posters are now being exhibited on public transport and other suitable sites, and short films have been accepted for showing on B.B.C. and Independent Television. In addition, as part of this campaign, the Government have decided that the time has come to end the advertising of cigarettes on television. This decision is being conveyed to the Independent Television Authority by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, and it will come into operation as soon as practicable.

Other forms of cigarette advertising, including those referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker) and Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan), are being actively considered.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, after years of dithering by his predecessors, his public-spirited and courageous decision will be welcomed very warmly not only by the medical profession but by a very wide section of the community? May I ask, first, at what date it will be practicable to ban television advertising for cigarettes and whether he does not agree that in the long run it would be unfair and anomalous to continue the advertising of cigarettes in other media? Will he carry out discussions with newspaper proprietors and other media owners to see whether, by voluntary action if not by compulsion, cigarette advertising may be removed altogether?

Mr. Robinson

The question of cigarette advertising in other media is still under consideration by the Government. The question of timing must, I think, be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.

Mr. Buchan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this announcement will be greeted with great satisfaction by many hon. Members who will not be taken in by the siren voices of the various tobacco companies? Would he consider fresh legislation in connection with the specific example which I gave him in which sampling is used as a disguised form of advertising?

Mr. Robinson

That also is one of the matters under consideration.

Mr. Wood

Would not it have been correct for this very important statement on the reduction of advertising to have been made by the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend who has responsibility for television? May I ask what discussions took place with the manufacturers about the limitation of such advertising before the Government reached this decision? Lastly, will the right hon. Gentleman explain the consistency of this step with the express exemption of tobacco by the Government from the 15 per cent. import surcharge?

Mr. Robinson

The question of the import surcharge, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is not one for me. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Chairman of the Tobacco Advertising Council has been informed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade of our action. I do not really think that this decision will come as a surprise to the tobacco industry. As for the appropriateness of my making a statement rather than my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, this is part of our anti-smoking campaign and is, I think, primarily a matter for the Minister of Health.

Mr. Braine

While agreeing that steps should be taken to discourage young people from forming the smoking habit, would not it be wiser to think carefully about the implications of banning a particular form of advertising? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the practice of some cigarette manufacturers of distributing coupons worth, I am told, £8 million is a more invidious way of encouraging smoking among young people than the method he seeks to ban? Would the right hon. Gentleman care to look into that?

Mr. Robinson

I do not wish to express a view on the effectiveness of this sort of advertising. It will come within the ambit of the consideration which the Government are giving to the general problem.

Mr. English

Has my right hon. Friend given any consideration to the possible effect of redundancy in the tobacco industry, and will there be any opportunity to debate this matter?

Mr. Robinson

I must tell my hon. Friend that the question of a debate is not one for me, but I doubt that even this intensification of the campaign will result in any sudden or dramatic drop in cigarette consumption. After all, the prospect of the gradual abandonment, or at any rate the reduction, of this dangerous habit has been with us for some time, and I have no doubt that the tobacco manufacturers have been making plans accordingly.

Mr. Redmayne

May we be assured that the right hon. Gentleman has been in close touch with his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General in respect of the effect of this decision on the finances of the programme companies, particularly the smaller programme companies? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I ask the House to be patient about this. Whatever Government there may be, surely interested parties have a right to be considered. The Postmaster-General will know very well that this will have a most considerable effect on their revenue. May I hope that we shall be assured that there has been close consultation as to the means by which the programme companies can be assisted to maintain the quality of their programmes without this revenue?

Mr. Robinson

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there has been the closest consultation between my right hon. Friend and myself. As to the question of revenue, it has always been the aim of the smoking and health education campaign to reduce cigarette smoking, and the consequences to all concerned must be accepted.

Mr. Wilkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not all of his hon. Friends are happy with the answer he has given this afternoon, not so much because of the equity of the thing, but because of the discrimination between one form of advertising and another? May I ask how he justifies banning cigarette advertising on television when it may still continue on hoardings or in newspapers? What is the difference between cigarette advertising and drink advertising, about which I have asked my right hon. Friend before and which is just as dangerous as smoking?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend has asked three questions. I certainly was not expecting that the decision which has been announced by the Government today would be universally acceptable. The singling out of television advertising has been done because it is a particularly effective form of advertising so far as adolescents are concerned and because it is one field where the Government can act immediately without any legislation. Regarding the comparison with drink, I am not aware that there is currently an active health education campaign by the Government going on to reduce the consumption of drink.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this discrimination between media is a little illogical since television advertising starts late at night and the daily Press is circulated all day? Will he bear in mind that the absence of advertising in Italy has not prevented increasing cigarette smoking?

Mr. Robinson

I think it a little premature for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about discrimination. I have already said that we are considering other forms of advertising. May I tell him that, according to statistics which I have in my Department, 20 per cent. of children aged between 11 and 15 are watching television at 9 p.m. and 10 per cent. are still watching at 10.15 p.m.