§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Tom Sackville)
It is estimated that 80 per cent. of deaths each year from bronchitis and chronic obstructive airways diseases are associated with smoking. The "Health of the Nation" White Paper commits us to ambitious targets to reduce smoking, and sets out a comprehensive strategy to achieve these targets, including action on price, health education, ensuring effective controls on advertising, and a great national health service role in reducing smoking.
§ Mr. Flynn
Does the Minister recall giving a different figure when he told my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that nine out of 10 deaths from bronchitis and emphysema—22,000 deaths per year—were caused by smoking? Does he also recall that during the general election campaign the marketing manager of Imperial Tobacco Limited said that his company had given the Conservative party 2,000 poster sites because it wanted the party to do its bidding when in 856 government? Why do the Conservatives always surrender to the tobacco lobby, ignoring all the weight of scientific evidence? Are they stupid, or are they corrupt?
§ Mr. Sackville
If the hon. Gentleman seriously thinks that there is any improper connection between the Government and the tobacco industry, he may ask why we have operated a pricing policy which has increased the real price of cigarettes by 43 per cent. in the past 10 years.
§ Mr. McCartney
As usual, the Minister has completely missed the point. He has an opportunity today to do something about the 17,000 children who need hospital treatment each year because of passive smoking. He could also do something about the hundreds of children who take up smoking every day: he could announce a ban on tobacco advertising. The Government and the tobacco industry are alone in Britain, Europe and the world in opposing the banning of tobacco advertising. Is it not about time that the Government stood up for the interests of the 17,000 children who are affected by smoking, rather than standing up for the interests of the tobacco industry?
§ Mr. Sackville
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that other countries in Europe have better policies on smoking than ours, he may wish to consider why it is possible to buy international brands of cigarettes and import them into this country at prices 20 per cent. lower than ours in Italy, 35 per cent. lower in France, 40 per cent. lower in Spain and 45 per cent. lower in Greece. He may also wish to ask the socialist brothers in Europe why they approve of a policy which subsidises tobacco growers to the tune of £1 billion per year.
§ Mr. Rathbone
Does my hon. Friend accept that Great Britain, where there is viable and energetic marketing of cigarettes, has a higher incidence of low-tar cigarette consumption than almost any other country? Does he also accept that, contrary to the Select Committee report, there is no link whatever between advertising and the incidence of smoking among young people?
§ Mr. Sackville
My hon. Friend is right to say that there is no proven link, but we shall continue our programme of education to deter young people from taking up smoking.