HC Deb 31 January 1986 vol 90 cc1235-46

Order for Second Reading read.

12.36 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

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

It is a rare privilege to have an opportunity to present a private Member's Bill. When I was fortunate enough to draw 12th place in the ballot, I publicised that fact in my constituency and asked for some suggestions as to what legislation it would be appropriate to present to the House. Among the suggestions that came forward was one from the East Lothian local health council, which suggested that something should be done about the use of tobacco products by young people and children in Britain. That is an eminently sensible subject to deal with and I am delighted to have this opportunity to move the Second Reading of the Bill in the House this afternoon.

I said that it was a rare privilege to present such a Bill, but I suspect that it is an even rarer privilege to have an opportunity to have a proper debate on a private Member's Bill which has secured only 12th place in the ballot. So I am particularly grateful for that good fortune.

This is a modest measure with two fundamental objectives. The first is to clarify the law which makes it an offence to sell tobacco to children and young people under the age of 16. The second is to extend the definition of tobacco to include other tobacco products such as tobacco products for sucking or chewing, which obviously means the product that has had a lot of publicity recently-Skoal Bandits—which is being manufactured and marketed in Britain by the United States Tobacco Corporation.

I want to make two general points in the context of this Second Reading debate. The first must be to refer to the serious problem of tobacco use by young people in Britain today. The recent Office of Population Censuses and Surveys report showed that no less than 13 per cent. of secondary school pupils in England smoke regularly. That is an alarming enough figure, but in Scotland the figure is even higher and more alarming because 16 per cent. of secondary school pupils there are smoking cigarettes regularly.

In a written reply on 13 December the Minister told me that by his Department's reckoning no fewer than 1,600,000 people under the age of 20 are smoking in Britain. It follows from that that somebody is selling vast quantities of cigarettes to children and youngsters in Britain. In another written reply on 13 December the Home Office said that there were only 42 prosecutions for the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to young people in England and Wales during 1984—the same year to which the figures from the OPCS report refer.

A new generation is getting hooked on a dangerous habit and the matter is running out of control. It appears from the facts which I have cited that the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, which are supposed to prohibit the sale of tobacco and cigarettes to youngsters, are not working. My Bill is intended to strengthen the prohibition which is already supposed to exist and remove any doubt that it is an offence to sell all tobacco products to children and young people under the age of 16.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Would "all tobacco products" include the infernal Skoal Bandits?

Mr. Home Robertson

I am coming to that. I have been concentrating my remarks on conventional smoking tobacco, with which we have been familiar for a long time. However, we now have what my hon. Friend refers to as the "infernal" product, Skoal Bandits?

The second part of my Bill concerns new tobacco products which are for sucking or chewing, the best known example of that being the product mentioned by my hon. Friend. The manufacturers of that product can quite safely say that it does not cause lung cancer. That stands to reason, because one does not inhale sucking tobacco into one's lungs. However, such products are certainly addictive and they contain nicotine. There is sound evidence from the United States of America that they can cause cancer and other diseases of the mouth.

I have a report on the health implications of smokeless tobacco use from the consensus development conference of the National Institutes of Health in the United States of America which took place earlier this month. In the conclusion of that report it says: Use of smokeless tobacco has a long history in the United States, but trends in recent years, in particular the increasing use of snuff by children and young adults, have led to concerns about possible health consequences. I believe that "snuff' is the word used to describe such products in the United States. The report goes on: The human evidence that the use of snuff causes cancer of the mouth is strong. Risk is particularly high for parts of the mouth where the snuff is usually placed … The primary behavioural consequence of regular use of smokeless tobacco is long-term nicotine dependence and its associated health risks. That is recent evidence from the United States of America.

In April 1985, in this country, the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Social Security warned that the habit significantly increased the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, an extremely unpleasant disease which might be difficult to treat and could result in disfigurement or death. That is the risk to which children in this country are being exposed when they think of purchasing such products.

It is sad to relate that the Government—I think inadvertently to be fair to them—gave a £1 million grant towards the establishment of a factory to manufacture those products in East Kilbride in Lanarkshire. Although the United States Tobacco Company has given assurances that it will not pitch its marketing efforts towards youngsters I fear that we already have disturbing evidence of efforts to sponsor students in college and to sponsor activities such as sport, which is clearly directed to young people and children. The very nature of a product which is sweet flavoured and designed to be sucked like a sweet and sold in shops which also sell sweets must point towards sales to youngsters.

There is widespread alarm about the implications of such products for children. We have seen instances of mothers in a village in Fife in Scotland picketing a shop which sells Skoal Bandits because they are angry that their children are being exposed to such risks.

My Bill has the support of such organisations as Action on Smoking and Health, health authorities and local health councils all over the country. It has the active support of the British Medical Association, and I have received letters of support recently from people as far apart as Camberley and Caithness—the length and breadth of the country. Indeed, the Bill has all-party support in the House.

The most significant public supporters of my Bill are my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) and the chief executive of East Kilbride district council, from whom I received a letter stating the council's wholehearted support for the objectives of my Bill. Jobs are very important in Lanarkshire, but not at any price.

My Bill is a modest and reasonable response to widespread public concern. I hope that it will improve and clarify the law for the benefit of all concerned. I freely acknowledge that the vast majority of people involved in the marketing and manufacturing of tobacco are responsible, and are not seeking deliberately to sell such products to young people, but the Bill is an endeavour to clarify the situation for the benefit of all concerned. I hope that it will help to protect young people throughout Britain from an extremely dangerous new tobacco product. I commend my Bill to the House.

12.45 pm
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

I shall seek not to detain the House for long, not least because I have already addressed it at length on a previous Bill.

I should like to voice my support for the Bill, and I hope that it will be accepted by the Government. I do so not only in a personal capacity but as chairman of the all-party group on action on smoking and health. We are sometimes described as a bunch of anti-smokers. I make it clear that we do not look upon ourselves in that role. If people want to smoke, it is up to them, but we feel that it is our job to ensure that they are informed and educated about the effects of smoking and tobacco products. As far as possible, they should be dissuaded from increasing their consumption, or persuaded to decrease it, if they will not stop. In particular, people should be dissuaded from taking up the use of tobacco products altogether. By far the most important people at whom some of our ideas are projected are young people. It is so important that youngsters should be not only informed as to the dangers of tobacco products but dissuaded from purchasing them.

The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) gave us the frightening figure that over 41 per cent. of children aged 16 are smokers. That is higher than the adult percentage. Something must be done to reduce that. As well as simply informing those people, we have to take every possible legal measure to make it more difficult for them to acquire the habit in the first place. One way to do that is to strengthen the law, as the Bill seeks to do, to prevent children from buying cigarettes.

The quantity of cigarettes being purchased shows that a large number of children must be buying them from shops. Indeed, a survey showed that 86 per cent. of children said that they bought their own cigarettes in shops or from machines. It is common knowledge that many tobacconists are prepared to sell cigarettes singly, for a few pence per cigarette. We must emphasise as strongly as possible that that is illegal. The Bill rightly strengthens the law on law on that front.

This week, the petition urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase the tax on tobacco received much publicity. The selling price of cigarettes would be increased, which would be another deterrent and make it much more difficult for children to take up smoking.

If cigarettes had just been introduced to this country, they would almost certainly be banned forthwith. The tests on them are conclusive as to the harm that they can cause. One realises the impracticability of prohibition, but there is now a new tobacco product on the market. There is no doubt about its effect. In a written answer to a question that I asked in July, the then Under-Secretary told me: The Chief Medical Officer wrote to doctors following a recommendation by the Department's committee on carcinogenicity, which considered that there was evidence that the use of non-smoked tobacco products within the mouth is causally associated with an increased risk of oral cancer."—[Official Report, 25 July 1985; Vol. 83, c. 773.] Given that, it is surprising that the product is allowed on the market. In reply to another question, the Minister said: There are at present no plans to prohibit the sale of Skoal Bandits or other tobacco products in this country".—[Official Report, 13 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 202.] The Irish are one step ahead of us, because the Irish Government have banned the sale of Skoal Bandits. It is a pity that they are not banned here.

It is to this Government's shame that a foreign country is allowed to set up a factory here to produce that product and that it was given taxpayers' money to do it. I hope that the Government will make some amends for that disgraceful decision by supporting the Bill.

12.50 pm
Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

I join colleagues on both sides of the House, not in the conventional congratulation of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on being successful in the ballot, but in offering him a sincere "thank you". I hope that I will not be accused of being jealous. My name has been in the hat at least 300 times for Bills and motions, but in 27 years my name has not come out once. The House will understand that I envy my hon. Friend. I have asked the "Guiness Book of Records" to include me because I have produced more Bills on this subject than any other hon. Member.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has chosen this subject. I am also delighted that he has chosen the most important aspect of the problem, on which there is a consensus among all political parties and all shades of medical opinion. We are talking about an addiction. If that addiction is stopped when people are young, lives will be saved.

Addiction starts at an early age. A recent report shows that children of school age are spending at least £64 million a year on cigarettes or tobacco products. That is not peanuts. The figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian on the number of youngsters affected are important.

I cannot emphasise too much that the early addict is hooked for life, as the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), who is chairman of the all-party group on action on smoking and health, said.

I had the privilege this year of being a member of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation on drug abuse. Hon. Members in all parts of the House are worried about drug abuse and the growing use of cocaine—the latest twist in the addiction spiral.

In my speech as a member of that delegation, I reported that 80 deaths in 1983 were caused by the abuse of heroin, methadone and hard drugs. The Royal College of Physicians produced evidence that the number of premature deaths in the United Kingdom from cigarettes was 100,000. The Prime Minister's figure for 1979 was 50,000. Whether the figure is 50,000 or 100,000, it is still important for us all to recognise that people under 65 are dying prematurely from smoking, with all the consequences of that. Lorry drivers smoke more than any other group and if a lorry driver dies and leaves a widow and young children, there is an enormous social services impact. We have to manage the debris.

Addiction starts at a young age. Many hon. Members have said to me, "I wish that I could kick the habit. I wish I had never started." The Bill reflects the mood of the House, because we all wish that people would not start smoking. If we tackle the problem at the start, we can hope for a better conclusion.

One difficulty about these debates is that too many people are inclined to take a moral attitude. Our concern should be solely for the health consequences to youngsters. Over the years, hon. Members from all parties have said to me, "Laurie, I am marvellous. I have given it up." They are priggish because they have demonstrated their willpower. Other hon. Members apologise for smoking and feel guilty. It is the boy scout syndrome: don't smoke; go out and chop wood instead. On both sides of the argument there is a confusion, which is not helpful to legislation.

If there were no health hazard to youngsters, I should be pleased to issue them with chimneys on their heads and the lethal Skoal Bandits. We are not talking about whether smoking is good or bad. We are interested in the health consequences, because the community has to pay the health bill and the youngster the penalty.

More young people have taken up smoking. Thanks to the excellent reports of the Royal College of Physicians the professional and middle classes do not smoke as much as they used to. The 10-year survey of general practitioners produced interesting results. Cases of chronic emphysema, lung cancer and bronchitis plummeted in those 10 years among doctors because, after the RCP report in 1961, general practitioners stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking cigars.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian understands that kids do not smoke cigars. We cannot switch them from cigarette smoking to cigar smoking, so that they go behind the lavatories in the school playground and puff on cigars.

Kids buy cigarettes one or two at a time. There are few prosecutions of shopkeepers who sell cigarettes to underage children. Kids do not need to have the price of a packet of cigarettes. If they are short of money, they can buy one, two or three cigarettes and continue their addiction.

The new problem tackled by the Bill is the appearance of Skoal Bandits. Lung cancer is usually our prime worry for smokers, although it is not half as bad as chronic emphysema. We must all die sometime, but those who die of chronic emphysema die in torture.

Cancer of the lip, cancer of the mouth and cancer of the throat are diseases of ghastly proportions. They produce terror and pain that even the best analgesics cannot ease. Those who die of oral cancer die painfully. Is that what the House, the country and the Government wish on young people?

Should young people be allowed to chew something they think is like chewing gum? They will get a kick from doing it but after a few years could find themselves suffering from these dread diseases. Of course we want jobs, but not at any cost. There should have been greater liaison between the Health Minister and the Employment Minister before the Skoal grant was given.

I am worried about an extension of advertising on television now that these Skoal Bandits are here. Nobody is more prone to suggestion than a young person, and no instrument of suggestion is more powerful than television. Mr. Kenneth Robinson was the first Minister of Health to ban advertising of cigarettes on television. I hope the present Minister will examine with his Home Office colleagues the danger of advertising for Skoal Bandits sneaking into some sponsored programme. I am not worried so much about the paid adverts on ITV as about the millions of pounds spent on sports sponsorship.

Youngsters like sports programmes. They are interested in football, and nothing is more exciting to them than a car race on television. In such programmes there will appear large advertisements urging people to smoke a certain brand of cigarettes. I hope that in due course the House will be able to deal with that, because it is a scandal. In the meantime I ask the Minister to examine with his officers the possibility of advertising for Skoal Bandits creeping in by this back door, whereby millions of pounds worth of advertising is obtained by sponsorships at minimal cost.

One of our great chief medical officers of health in the Department of Health and Social Security more than 20 years ago was Sir George Godber. What shook me in his annual report and what shook Members of this House was his report stating that deaths and unnecessary suffering could be stopped. Members do not want unneccessary death and suffering. Ministers and Members of all parties always reach towards prevention and not treatment. That has been my theme all the time I have been in the House. I am a National Health Service man. If we can stop people from getting ill, Ministers will not be able to boast at the Dispatch Box about the huge increase in in-patients and out-patients from the year before, and about how great the Health Service is because more people are ill and are being treated.

Sir George Godber said in his annual report—he was able to put it across as Britain's representative on the World Health Organisation—that the greatest single step that any country could take towards preventing illness was to do something about decreasing cigarette smoking. This Bill is in the tradition of prevention rather than cure because it says that if we are to prevent illness it must be prevented early. I hope the House will give the Bill continuing support.

I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates). I have known him for a long time and have a great affection for him, because he once told me that if my wife put up against one of his hon. Friends he would be prepared to vote for her. I have never forgotten that remark and have always listened to him with a great deal of interest. I shall not say which of his hon. Friends that was, but he is on the Government Front Bench now.

I know the procedures of the House well, and I noticed that the hon. Member for Hampshire, East did some dextrous footwork on his Bill. I therefore immediately went to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian and said, "What about putting the Bill through all its stages now?" You were kind enough, Mr. Deputy Speaker, bearing in mind the traditions of the House, to allow the previous Bill to be considered. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian informs me that his Bill can be improved and tightened in Committee. I hope that it receives full support on Second Reading from the Under-Secretary of State and that the full resources of his Department and his legal officers will be available to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian to assist him in drafting any amendments that need to be tabled. It has been a great privilege for me to be one of the Bill's supporters and sponsors.

1.5 pm

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (Surrey, South-West)

The appalling number of secondary schoolchildren estimated to be smoking—about 40 per cent.—must cause us all great anxiety. I support the Bill. Many comments have been made to me by parents, teachers, doctors and nurses in my constituency who are deeply worried. If we cannot prevent young people from taking up smoking, what hope have we that we will persuade them to give up smoking as they grow up?

Smoking is the greatest preventable cause of illness and early death in the United Kingdom. It accounts for at least 100,000 deaths a year, with enormous personal and national costs, individual suffering, lost working days and demands on Health Service resources.

I congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on introducing the Bill. For too long children have been able to buy cigarettes. Parents and shopkeepers have not been vigilant. It is a matter not only of legislation but of enforcement. It has been said that 80 per cent. of all cigarettes smoked by children have been bought by them in shops. It must be seen as a casualty of affluence. When £90 million a year is spent on cigarettes by schoolchildren, we must ask serious questions.

In considering smoking by adults, there are more finely balanced arguments about the rights of individuals and the responsibility of Government. I believe that prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to young people, especially by extending the provisions of the Bill to include oral products, such as Skoal Bandits, is greatly needed. We should all greatly appreciate the efforts of the hon. Member for East Lothian. I give him my sincere and profound support.

1.7 pm

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I speak as a former addict of tobacco and heavy smoker, one who now finds the habit particularly pernicious. It should be confined to the privacy of the home. It is a habit that should not be encouraged among young people.

I welcome the Bill. As the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) said, the number of young smokers is a sad sign of the prevalence of this form of addiction. I want to speak briefly because I have received a number of complaints from constituents who are concerned about what I called in an earlier intervention these "infernal" Skoal Bandits.

The Bill will strengthen the law to restrict the sale of tobacco products. I believe that we should follow the example set by the Irish Government and outlaw these products. This debate, brief though it is, outlines the dangers associated with this type of addition.

I welcome the Bill, but much more must be done to dissuade young pople from indulging in this appalling habit. We require more educational programmes aimed at preventing the spread of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and other forms of abuse among young children. The Government and local authorities have a duty to warn youngsters at school of the dangers of those forms of addiction, especially that associated with cigarette smoking.

1.10 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on introducing his Bill. Where children's health is at risk, it is essential to take immediate action. There is no cause for delay. The morality of selling Skoal Bandits is highly questionable because they may lead to smoking. That will provide a tremendous extra strain on the National Health Service, as is at present the case with smokers. Moreover, it may lead eventually to death.

The morality of Skoal Bandits is particularly questionable as they are prepared in sweet form, which denies the reality of the product. We must prevent any form of pressurised selling of that product. In that regard we must particularly consider advertising.

Immediate action is required against the product because of its dangers to our young people. The Bill will provide that, so I support it.

1.11 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on taking this initiative, and I support his proposal. I am grateful to him for bringing Skoal Bandits to the House today because it is the first time that I have seen them. It is appalling that such a dangerous product can be peddled as a sweet, either mint or cherry flavoured, to young children. The information disc inside the tins is headed: Getting used to Skoal Bandits. It states: Like your first beer, Skoal Bandits can be a taste that may take a few days to acquire. Overleaf it continues: but, whatever you do, stick with it. That is an incitement to addition directed at young children. It is obscene, offensive and immoral, and should be banned. Skoal Bandits should not be on sale to young children, and are dangerous in their own right.

I shall not deal with the question of the money made available to the factory because the case against this offensive product has been dealt with effectively.

The House would find it hard not to accept the case for not selling the product to children. We banned the sale of fireworks to youngsters who appeared to be under the age of 16. Although fireworks are dangerous, they represent a minor hazard compared with the injury and damage resulting from the use of tobacco. I was astonished at the figure of £90 million given by the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) which represents the total amount spent by schoolchildren on tobacco products. Perhaps the Minister can give us a more precise figure. The hon. Lady was correct. If the Bill is passed, it is equally important to enforce it. If we do not have enforcement back-up, the law becomes ineffective. In that context, the procrastination that is taking place in consumer protection round the country must be disturbing. I hope that the Government will not only support the proposal, but will show their support in a practical form by ensuring that there are sufficient consumer protection officers and trading standards officers to implement the proposals.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian intimated, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we should reconsider not only where and when tobacco products are sold, but where they can be consumed. Tobacco has become an intrusion on the rights of non-smokers. We must reconsider a complete ban on advertising. Methods of advertising have now become so subtle that it is time to say that we have had enough and that we recognise that the present well-intentioned restrictions have not achieved our objectives. We should now go the whole hog and say that advertising of tobacco products must be stopped.

1.15 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Security (Mr. Ray Whitney)

I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) on his success in the ballot, in contrast with the undeserved lack of success of his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt). I congratulate him also on using his success to provide the opportunity for this important debate and to introduce a Bill that we all support. The hon. Member has explained the purpose of the Bill admirably, so I shall be brief and not cover again the ground already discussed by so many hon. Members, who have displayed a large measure of agreement.

The Bill touches on an issue of great concern to the Government—the degree to which young people are threatening their future health by the use of tobacco. Cigarettes pose by far the biggest threat to health. We recently published disturbing figures, which have been quoted by hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley). It is estimated that about £90 million a year is spent on tobacco products by children under the age of 16. Another alarming statistic is that 30 per cent. of fifth formers were identified as regular smokers—regular being defined as 50 cigarettes a week. The figures are increasing among the under-16s, but I am glad to say that in the adult population the incidence of smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate. However, none of us is complacent.

Tobacco in any form is potentially hazardous, so it is essential that we should do everything possible to ensure the protection of our youngsters. It must be our objective to try and deter young people from using tobacco of any kind in view of the established health risks. Today's Bill will help towards achieving that aim by strengthening the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to children, specifically to include smokeless tobacco products such as Skoal Bandits. It would amend the law on tobacco sales to make it an offence to sell any tobacco product to a person under the age of 16 years in any circumstances.

A tightening of the law is especially desirable to reduce the possibility of children being able to buy smokeless tobacco products, such as Skoal Bandits, which are now being promoted. The widespread anxiety about the appeal of that type of product to youngsters has been reflected in the debate. The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) quoted with some effect the type of promotion employed by the company. Skoal Bandits pose the risk of oral cancer and may lead youngsters to smoke cigarettes and encourage dependence on nicotine.

Existing legislation, which was drafted long before Skoal Bandits became available, is clearly unsatisfactory. It is currently not an offence to sell such products to children if the tobacconist reasonably believes that they are for someone else. That makes it easy for a child to buy such products on the pretext that they are for a parent or an older brother or sister. It would be extremely difficult to obtain a conviction under the present law because of the defences available to the seller. By removing those defences, the Bill would remedy an obvious weakness in the law.

The Government already have a voluntary agreement with manufacturers which restricts the marketing of Skoal Bandits in ways which are intended to protect young people. The Bill would reinforce that agreement by tightening the rules affecting the point of sale and closing an apparent loophole. Although it is obviously less likely that children will try to buy pipes and cigars for their own use, it seems sensible to cover them in the Bill, thus putting all tobacco products on the same footing as cigarettes.

Simplifying the law thus would help the tobacconist. There would no longer be room for doubt about whether he was within his rights in knowingly selling tobacco goods to somebody aged under 16. I believe that, in many cases, the shopkeepers will welcome the clarification. If the Bill became law, the Government will want to consider means of publicising the new provisions so that tobacconists are made fully aware of them.

I should like to renew my congratulations to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and to assure him and the House that the Bill has the Government's full support. I strongly hope that it will be given sympathetic consideration today.

1.21 pm
Mr. Home Robertson

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to reply to the debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House?

Hon. Members


Mr. Home Robertson

I am most grateful to the Minister, and others who have spoken, for their support. We hear much about rowdyism and how everybody is supposed to oppose everybody in the House for no good reason, but today we have had a succession of constructive debates on constructive proposals. This is the House of Commons at its best.

I am grateful to the Minister for indicating the Government's support for the Bill. I am also grateful for the co-operation that he and his officials have already given in the preparation of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) is the chairman of the all-party group on Action on Smoking arid Health. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) suggested that we should be going a lot further and banning products such as Skoal Bandits. I quite agree, but we all know that politics is the art of the possible, and private Members' Bills demonstrate that more than anything else. It would have been foolish to introduce a measure that would have aroused strong opposition from those interested in the manufacture of tobacco products. Nevertheless, I would have loved to go much further. The hon. Gentleman said that Skoal Bandits have been banned in the Republic of Ireland. I agree that it would be desirable to consider a ban here. Perhaps we could explore that in the future.

I commiserate with my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt). He might not be lucky in ballots for private Members' Bills, but he has been an extremely consistent and doughty fighter to protect the health of people of all ages. He is quite right—if we want to stop people suffering from the effects of a dangerous addiction, the best action is to prevent them getting addicted. Prevention is obviously better than cure, and that is what we are trying to achieve today.

The hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) spoke in an earlier debate, in which she demonstrated her concern for the welfare of young people. She spoke principally about cigarettes and the danger of cigarette smoking. She also drew attention to the fact that, in a year during which an estimated £90 million was spent on cigarettes by people under 16, there were only 42 prosecutions for selling those products. The sale of such products to young people is supposed to have been illegal since 1933 in England and Wales and since 1937 in Scotland. Obviously, someone is driving a coach and horses and much more through the legislation. I hope that the debate and the Bill will encourage a further examination of the position.

Section 7(1) of The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, and section 18 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, whose terminology is identical, are circuitous, to put it mildly. They offer on a plate a range of defences against possible prosecutions for selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to young people. The primary purpose of the Bill is to clarify that prohibition. I hope that, if the Bill becomes law, we shall have much more effective control of the trade. My secondary purpose is to make it crystal clear that Skoal Bandits or anything like them are included in the prohibition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow spoke with all the zeal of a convert. I welcomed with mixed feelings the support of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), because last year I spent 10 happy days in his constituency trying to ensure that someone else won the seat. Nevertheless, I am grateful for his support. He referred to advertising. We should pay tribute to the Independent Broadcasting Authority for saying that it will not accept advertisements for Skoal Bandits. However, as someone else said, direct advertising is not the whole story. There is also the problem of the sponsorship of sports and other such indirect advertising.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) had not intended to speak in the debate, but, when I was rash enough to show him the product that we are discussing, he expressed his strong abhorrence to it. We have clearly achieved the rare commodity of unanimity in the House. I am grateful for the support of the Government and hon. Members of all parties, and I commend my Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 42 (Committal of Bills).