HC Deb 23 February 1973 vol 851 cc1030-4

Order for Second Reading read.

3.53 p.m.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I thank hon. Members opposite, my hon. Friends and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), for doing me the courtesy of granting me these few minutes to start the Bill on its way.

I make it clear that this is a health Bill. The Holy Grail that many of us have pursued for a long time is to try to get away from curative to preventive medicine. The purpose of the Bill is precisely that.

The Chief Medical Officer to the Department of Health and Social Security, Sir George Godber, has said recently that the greatest single step which could be made towards preventive medicine would be if we could do something about the tremendous amount of illness and death caused by cigarette smoking.

I ask the House not to judge my case on the basis of any emotion but rather on the facts. The difficulty about discussing the subject is that most people feel that there is something either morally right or morally wrong about smoking. Those who have given up smoking are inclined to be a little priggish about the fact that they were sufficiently strong willed to do so. Those who still smoke feel that they need to justify themselves in defence.

Neither attitude is correct. It is not a question of right or wrong; it is a question of what is right from the point of view of the life and health of the individual. The argument for a Second Reading rests entirely on the question of the health, happiness and community responsibility of our citizens.

The size of the problem is immense. It divides itself into two parts. One is preventable death. I have not time to give all the quotations I should like to have made from Government sources—in particular, Sir George Godber and the documents published by the Department of Health. Once every 10 minutes somebody dies as a result of smoking. That means 150 deaths a day. If one were to see such a figure in terms of a plane crash the size of the problem would be immediately apparent. A recent statement by the Department shows that it is now 80,000 a year.

The most dreaded cancer for women is that of the breast, but for that disease the survival rate is 44 per cent., whereas the survival rate for lung cancer is 5 per cent. The tragedy is that the results of smoking hit the 35–64 age group. There were 27,500 deaths in that age group—unneccessary deaths. It is about unnecessary death that I am talking—not the inevitable death which arrives gradually and overtakes us all. Smokers have a two- in-five chance of dying before 65 compared with the rest of the community.

This is the eighth time that I have been associated with a Bill of this sort. The first time that I introduce a similar Bill was on 8th May 1964. The alarming change which has occurred since I introduced that Bill is that there is double the rate of increase in cancer of the lung in females as there is in the rate for men. The factor has risen to this extent, that by 1974 female lung cancer will be double the rate it was for 1960. It is this kind or agument that one needs to consider in attempting to contain the problem by means of this Bill.

Perhaps even more than the question of death—for we expect everybody else to die except ourselves—is the problem of preventable illness, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. As Dr. Keith Ball of the Central Middlesex Hospital said, 7,500 hospital beds each day are occupied because of smoking.

I should like to have quoted more figures, but time does not allow it. We are not able to strike a financial balance sheet, apart from the question of health and happiness. Canada is the only country which has made a profit and loss cost benefit analysis, and in that country it has been found that they are £387 million down. The Exchequer in this country gets £1,140 million in the form of customs and excise revenue on tobacco, and I hope that in Committee I shall have time to debate that subject further.

In 1957 the Conservative Government accepted the medical proof of this health hazard and that the fact that smoking caused death and illness. It is a real thing. But very little was done about it. Two years ago the Government moved as a result of the Royal College of Physicians Second Report, but so feebly that the BMA came out with the statement: With a justifiable sense of déjàvu doctors may be forgiven for asking whether the Government will still be shilly-shallying in 1981. There are other items of evidence that I could quote, but the Bill deals mainly in Clause 1, with the question of advertising. If the Bill is passed, it does not mean that people will immediately stop smoking, but it will redress the balance in a situation where £3,000 a week is spent on health education and £1 million a week is spent on the promotion of cigarette sales and smoking by the tobacco companies. For every £1 spent on the promotion of health in this field, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets £7,500 in duties.

It is the intention of the Bill to ban gift coupons, which take £35 million of the promotional money. It is such things as coupons which prevent people giving up smoking. Gallahers research showed when coupons were first being introduced that they appealed mostly to women, and it is the increase in women smokers which brings about a new dimension in the health problems that this Bills seeks to tackle.

In advertising there has been a complete switch as a result of the Royal College of Physicians' representations. Now advertising has a snob appeal, for it was the middle classes who first heeded the evidence and stopped smoking. There has also been the switch to the sports appeal. If they can get a young person to start smoking, they can keep selling to him for the rest of his life.

Clause 2 tightens up the warning on the packet and makes this a statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State. Clauses 3 and 5 provide the possibility for stronger recommendations on the subject of tar and nicotine, both to prohibit the quantity and to ensure adequate notices at the points of sale. Clause 4 is the most significant prohibition. I am concerned not so much with stopping people from smoking as with preventing young people from starting to smoke, and it is in this clause that vending machines go from youth clubs and education institutes.

The remaining clauses deal with the penalties, and so on.

I recognise that this is a controversial measure. There is a lot more that I should like to say, but which I am prevented from saying because of the time. I hope the House will give the Bill a run and will send it to Committee, where, if there are differences to be ironed out, I hope we shall all recognise the facts. As the late Lord Rosenheim said, we are faced with a holocaust caused by smoking. Let Parliament take the necessary responsible action to halt it.

Major-General Jack d'Avigdor Goldsmid (Lichfield and Tamworth)

I oppose the Bill, not because I disagree with the wish of the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) to improve the health of the nation but, rather—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday, 13th April.