HL Deb 14 February 1978 vol 388 cc1241-3

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, since the recent report of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (Cmnd. 7050) refers to an "increased overall consumption of tobacco", they remain satisfied with their campaign to discourage smoking.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government, whose campaign to discourage smoking is directed mainly at the smoking of cigarettes because of their close association with certain serious diseases, have noted with satisfaction that in recent years there has been a steady decline in the number of cigarette smokers and in the total sales of cigarettes. The overall consumption of tobacco, which is referred to in the report of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, includes tobacco used in cigars and pipes as well as in cigarettes. In any case, it refers to consumption by manufacturers and thus makes no allowance for quantities taken into stock.


My Lords, I am very much obliged for that comprehensive reply, from which I take some comfort; but seeing that, out of the 55p paid for the average packet of 20 cigarettes, about 38p goes in duty and VAT, and since the manufacturers' profit can be only a few pence, could I ask this question: How about matching the manufacturers' advertising budgets with at least an equivalent sum to be spent on advertising the antismoking campaign?


My Lords, I think we have to look at the purpose of the advertising on the part of the manufacturers. I think it would be true to say—there is a very real distinction here—that it is not so much directed at encouraging people to smoke but at changing their smoking habits towards smoking brands of cigarettes which have a lower tar yield. If the noble Lord looks at the advertisements, I think he will find that I am right on this point. This is a good thing. If manufacturers are prepared to advertise that people who feel they must smoke should smoke the lower tar yield brands, so much the better. I can tell the noble Lord that there is an agreement between the manufacturers and the Government that they should spend a proportionately higher sum of money in the future on advertising the brands of cigarettes which offer the two lowest tar groups.


My Lords, would it not be more helpful if Her Majesty's Government gave practical and tangible help in this campaign by reducing the amount of duty and tax on cigarettes made of NSM? Is the noble Lord aware that it is reported that this type of cigarette is likely to be withdrawn from the market because of the poor sales response?


My Lords, on the basis of the assessment of evidence so far presented by the independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health, the Government cannot yet confirm that cigarettes containing substitute material positively represent a reduction in the dangers of smoking. Until we have more information, I do not think I can take it any further than that.


My Lords, could the Minister assure me that the Government will not fall into the trap of taking away the only solace of those of us who like to smoke? After smoking for 65 years. I should like to say that, in these dismal days, it is really a solace to have a smoke.


My Lords, I cannot think that any Party represented in your Lordships' House would want to impose conditions of that kind on anybody. We prefer to deal with this matter by education, and, we hope, good sense.


My Lords, in view of the total failure of the campaign by the tobacco manufacturers for promoting a tobacco substitute, can my noble friend say whether further research is being conducted by the manufacturers into alternative tobacco substitutes?


My Lords, I can only say that there have obviously been discussions between the Government and the manufacturers on this matter. We very much hope that the industry will proceed with the development of substitute materials, so that these may take their place with other measures in a positive contribution to deal with what many of us regard as dangerous tendencies on the part of the smoking public.


My Lords, in looking at this interesting survey which now shows a substantial drop in cigarette smoking—and I refer only to cigarette smoking—did Her Majesty's Government note that the substantial drop was almost entirely in social classes 1 and 2, whereas social classes 4 and 5 smoke just about as much as previously?


My Lords, we recognise that, and I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Platt, has said. However, we are making money available, and we have made money available for some time, to the Health Education Council. It may not be as much as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, would wish and I think that many might share his point of view. The ASH Campaign against smoking has had a very real measure of success. We are aware that this must continue, but, as I say, the Government prefer to deal with the matter by way of education.

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