§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In advance I wish to thank all noble Lords who have agreed to speak and I look forward with great pleasure to hearing the noble Duke, the Duke of Gloucester, who is patron of ASH—Action on Smoking and Health. His speech in your Lordships' House in June 1984 on the report, "Health or Smoking?" was memorable and widely quoted in the media.
At this stage I should declare an interest in the subject of the Bill. I am a founder member of PAT—Parents Against Tobacco—the organisation sponsoring the Bill. It was introduced in another place by the honourable Member for Warley East, Mr. Andrew Faulds. Its purpose is to strengthen existing legislation on the sale of tobacco products to children.
It is already an offence under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the 1937 Act in Scotland for retailers to sell cigarettes to children who are apparently under 16 years of age. It is reasonable to ask, "Why is further legislation necessary?" It is because the present laws are ineffective. They are being flouted to what I would call a farcical degree, were the subject not so serious. Children under 16 have no difficulty at all in buying cigarettes. Even 10 year-olds can walk into shops and come out with packets of cigarettes. Recent surveys carried out after a year of extensive publicity about illegal cigarette sales show little, if any, improvement on figures compiled a year earlier. Then 50 per cent. of shopkeepers were shown to be breaking the law.
At this stage it may be interesting if I report that in October last year West Yorkshire County Council carried out a major survey in which children visited 97 premises and attempted to buy cigarettes. Overall, 41 per cent. of shops sold cigarettes to them. In one particular part of the county 14 out of 16 tobacconists—that is, 87 per cent. of the shops visited—sold cigarettes to children clearly under 16 years of age. Also, at the end of last year trading standards officers in Kingston upon Thames visited 28 shops with a 13 year-old girl who attempted to buy cigarettes. Fifteen out of the 28 shops—over 50 per cent—sold them to her.
It is clear that the present law is not working because it is not being enforced. In 1988 there were only 29 prosecutions for this offence in the whole of the United Kingdom. That was despite the fact that the tobacco industry admits to at least£70 million of illegal cigarette sales to under age children. There have been more prosecutions during 1990, largely stimulated by the Parents Against Tobacco campaign. In some areas prosecutions have been brought for the first time ever.
This may be encouraging, but the present scale of fines is so low that they are no real deterrent to the unscrupulous shopkeeper. On average, fines are below £100. For example, recently magistrates in 1157 Humberside fined two retailers £50 each. Fines of that level are insufficient. The gravity of the offence is not apparent when the penalty is only a small fine.
I hardly need to describe in detail the health risks in smoking. I have spoken to your Lordships on that subject on a number of occasions. The risks are very well known, but they cannot be over-emphasised. Cigarette smoking is much the biggest preventable cause of death in the UK. In 1987, 40,187 people died from lung cancer. Approximately 90 per cent. of deaths from lung cancer and bronchitis are directly caused by smoking. At least 110,000 people die prematurely each year from smoking-related diseases. Numerically, the majority die from coronary heart disease. At least 25 per cent. of those who die from that condition, which is our biggest killer, do so as a result of smoking. The younger the victim of the coronary heart attack, the more likely it is that smoking is a contributory cause to the death.
Most people acquire the habit of smoking early in life. Over 300,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 are regular smokers: 23 per cent. of all girls and 17 per cent. of all boys aged 15 smoke. Until recently, cigarette smoking was falling in the United Kingdom, largely because older adults had become convinced of its health hazards. However, to replace those who give up smoking, the tobacco industry needs to recruit a new generation of smokers. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. It is as addictive as heroin and other hard drugs. Even though it may not appear to do so much harm when taken, the long-term effects are just as drastic.
The habit of smoking is easily established and extremely difficult to break. The young are particularly vulnerable: 75 per cent. of adult smokers became addicted before they were 18. Children who smoke are likely to become adults who smoke. Boys who smoke now will become fathers who smoke. In turn, their children will be at risk through passive smoking. There is a clear connection between the number of cigarettes smoked in the home and the incidence of respiratory diseases in the children who live in that home.
Women who are heavy smokers—those who smoke 20 or more a day—are twice as likely to have miscarriages as are non-smokers. Children born of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are on average 8 ounces—half a pound—lighter than those born to non-smokers. Smoking has a direct effect on perinatal mortality. The risk to infants increases by 20 per cent. for those whose mothers smoke fewer than 20 cigarettes a day and by 35 per cent. for those whose mothers smoke more than 20 a day. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves. A vicious circle is formed and it is only by breaking that circle that we have a chance of preventing unnecessary deaths and promoting healthier lives. That is what this Bill aims to do.
I shall now describe briefly the clauses of the Bill. Clauses 1 and 2 aim to introduce higher levels of fines and improve the wording of current legislation. The maximum fine available at present is£400. However, as I said earlier, the fines levied by the courts are much lower. This Bill would raise the fines to level 4 which 1158 provides for a maximum of £1,000. Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill now proceeding through your Lordships' House, the level 4 maximum will rise to £2,500.
This scale of penalty will allow magistrates to impose fines which will reflect the severity of the offence and provide a real deterrent to irresponsible retailers. Clauses 1 and 2 also amend the primary legislation to clarify the offence and to make prosecution easier. At present the offence includes a subjective element. The offence is committed where a retailer sells cigarettes to a child who is apparently under the age of 16. That provision has caused problems and confusion and has deterred many local authorities from bringing prosecutions because of the need to produce children in court to show how old they appeared to be. Under this Bill the offence will no longer be the sale of cigarettes to children who are apparently under the age of 16, but absolutely to those who are under the age of 16. The production of a birth certificate in court should suffice to satisfy magistrates about the customer's age.
However, the honest and responsible retailer will he protected by the introduction of a defence where previously none existed. Retailers who can show that they have taken,reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligenceto prevent sales to children under 16 can use that as a defence in any proceedings.
The Bill also plugs a potential loophole in the law. Children now have easy access to vending machines in places such as cinema foyers, amusement arcades and other such places. The vending machine trade estimates that 20 per cent. of machines are in places accessible to the under-16s. Under this Bill it will be possible to take action if a vending machine has been used just once by anyone under the age of 16. At present the law only covers a situation where a vending machine "is being used extensively". However, that is difficult to prove. Under the Bill if evidence laid before a court shows that anyone under the age of 16 has used the machine, magistrates can order the removal of the machine, or its control, so that use by under-16s cannot recur.
Clause 3 deals with an especially unpleasant practice. There are unscrupulous traders who make a higher profit from children who smoke by breaking open packs of cigarettes and selling them singly. This is done because children often cannot afford the price of a whole packet of cigarettes. However, the sale of single cigarettes in effect hooks children onto the habit of smoking. When they are older and can afford them they buy whole packets of cigarettes.
Clause 3 will make it illegal for retailers to sell cigarettes except in the original pack of 10 or more. This will cause retailers to stop and think seriously before they break open packs of cigarettes as they will be committing an offence by that action alone, quite apart from the sale of a cigarette to a child. This clause will attract a lower level of fine (level 3 rather than level 4) as traders can be prosecuted both under the primary clause—that is, the sale of cigarettes to 1159 under-16s—and under this new clause dealing with the breaking open of packs and the sale of cigarettes singly.
Clause 4 will require notices to be prominently displayed at the point of sale stating that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to children under 16. Those notices will also have to be displayed on vending machines. Thus the law on cigarette sales will quite properly be advertised where it matters, as is currently done with alcohol in public houses and off-licences.
Clause 5 deals with another aspect of inadequate enforcement. Earlier I stated that children are able to buy cigarettes with' ease because the law at present is not being enforced. Clauses 5 and 6 will provide a remedy for that because they will require one tier of local government at least once every 12 months to consider the extent to which it is appropriate for it to carry out a full programme of enforcement action in its area. This action would include investigations into retailer behaviour, following up complaints, bringing prosecutions and taking any other steps that might be necessary to reduce the incidence of illegal sales.
All local authorities, except in Scotland, have powers to enforce the existing legislation. Those powers will not be affected by the Bill. The new provision will ensure that at county council level, or its equivalent, a regular review of the supply of cigarettes to children under 16 will be undertaken. Where a problem appears to exist the local authority is given a clear indication of how to proceed.
Local authorities and trade associations have made clear their support for this more active approach to enforcement. Many local councils support the Parents Against Tobacco campaign and have welcomed the prospect of a broadly framed duty, as required in this clause.
The public themselves have made clear their support for firm action. In response to a MORI opinion poll, 95 per cent. of the public replied that the law in this area should be strictly enforced. Therefore this legislation is not being foisted on an unwilling populace.
Clause 6 applies the Bill to Scotland where somewhat different arrangements prevail with regard to prosecution. The effect of the Bill should be the same in Scotland with the local authority laying any evidence it has before the procurator fiscal who can then decide to prosecute rather than going ahead with the prosecution itself, as in England.
This Bill will prevent children under 16 from being able to buy cigarettes. That will give them a chance to grow up to be healthy and perhaps to be a lot wealthier than they would be as smokers supporting a cigarette habit. There is also evidence that drug and alcohol problems are much more common among smokers. Therefore, those evils might also be alleviated by this Bill. No one should believe, of course, that this measure alone will stop smoking in childhood, but it seeks to deal with the supply side of the problem more effectively than any previous legislation.
This Bill was extensively considered in another place. There were four days in Committee and the 1160 Report and Third Reading stages lasted three-and-a-half hours. I feel that the original Bill has been weakened during its passage through another place in that a clause which made tobacco product advertising outside retail outlets illegal was dropped. However, the tobacco industry has voluntarily agreed to cut that advertising by 50 per cent. and to remove billboard advertising of tobacco products from within sight of school premises and playing fields. We shall have to watch carefully to see whether that agreement is properly carried out.
At present I do not have any definite amendments planned to the Bill. However, I welcome any which strengthen the effect of the Bill and I shall vigorously oppose any which further weaken the effect of this modest but I hope useful Bill. It is to this country's credit that for over half a century we have had legislation to prevent the sale of cigarettes to children, but it is to our discredit that we have failed to make that legislation work in practice. By introducing many practical improvements this Bill creates the framework for regular review of trade practices and a blitz on illegal sales whenever and wherever necessary. I commend it to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Lord Rea.)
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ The Duke of Gloucester
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to address the House on this subject—as delighted as I was when I was invited to be President of Parents Against Tobacco. I have been trying to help ASH for some years in its struggles, but I am constantly haunted by the futility of persuading and helping lots of adults to give up smoking yet knowing that thousands and thousands of schoolchildren are following inexorably the same path. It is like watching an escalator taking people to a disaster. The cycle repeats and repeats.
The children start smoking as a lark or a dare, or for whatever reason, and become addicted. They try to give up later. Either they succeed with great suffering or they fail and endure the consequences, which may include being one of the 300 people who every 24 hours die prematurely as a result of smoking tobacco.
Parents Against Tobacco as a campaign concentrates on this one area of children starting to smoke and has approached it on a broad front. The Bill is an important part of that campaign. However, it is PAT's intention to bring the debate we are having here today to every community and, if possible, into every household.
For too long the tobacco industry's greatest ally has been the British sense of inhibition. Personal habits are not something that we discuss easily, and talk of addiction and dependency does not come up easily in most people's houses. It becomes a taboo subject. It is the sort of thing that one would expect to discuss only in a doctor's surgery or in a science lesson. The consequence is that perhaps the single most important decision, at least as regards health, that we as human beings make is usually made by 1161 teenagers who are totally unprepared to approach it rationally. I am referring to the question, "Would you like to smoke?".
PAT, together with others, has done its surveys as to why the answer is so often, "Yes". The first reason is that it seems grown up. It is inevitable that, if there is adult disapproval, to children the banned activity immediately appears the thing to do. There is perhaps that sense of sophistication which waving a cigarette about appears to give. For girls, the majority believe that smoking makes one thin and therefore attractive. For boys, it makes them seem sporty, manly and independent. Of course they read the health warning, but what does it mean? That they might get a headache one day? Smoking, they know, only kills old people. So what? Heroin they are frightened of because they know that it kills young people, but tobacco only kills the old. The concept of addiction is not understood. The assumption is that if for any reason they do not like smoking they can just walk away from it.
The scientists show us that the earlier one starts smoking the more destructive it is and the more addictive. We live in a consumer society and very often to young people consumption is something that they cannot afford. But they think that they can afford smoking, particularly if they buy the cigarettes one at a time. As we have seen, a clause in the Bill is intended to prevent shops selling them one at a time. I have been told that, if one smokes four cigarettes, that is probably enough to produce addiction.
Starting to smoke cigarettes often leads to other drugs. I do not suggest that all smokers become drug addicts, but if one turns it round the other way there are very few drug addicts who are not already smokers. Smoking is the first corrupting step of putting a chemical into one's lungs where it does not belong. If our lungs had nerves and felt the pain, very few people would smoke.
We live in a society which is increasingly health conscious. Our expectations are changing. Retirement used to be thought of as a restful period of brief duration described as "declining years". As we progress—medically, socially, even gastronomically—retirement will be seen as a period of freedom for people fit in mind and body to carry out their ambitions. Tobacco has no part in that scenario and today's deliberations will direct a spotlight on that murky business where the power of the tobacco industry is recruiting its replacement victims through the many small shops, run most frequently by decent people who can only follow the practice that is normal Our attitude as parents protecting our children from that norm also plays a role because it is a matter which must be discussed as publicly as possible to establish what is right.
This Bill is both practical and reasonable in its demand that our children should be protected from access to a product that can only stunt and diminish their lives, however much they may imagine the contrary.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, it is both a pleasure and a privilege to follow the noble Duke, the Duke of Gloucester, and his quite outstanding speech. We all know of the tremendous work which he has carried out on behalf of Parents Against Tobacco and many other organisations which are campaigning against smoking. The pity of it is that there is not a much fuller House to hear what the noble Duke had to say. It is to be hoped that his speech will be very widely read, because it is one of the most important speeches for a long time.
The House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for his extremely clear exposition of an important Bill. This is not a Bill to ban smoking. Some speeches in the other place suggested that it was that kind of Bill. It is not that kind of Bill.
We can all recount stories of smoking in our childhood. At the age of eight or nine I managed to cadge a cigarette. I took two puffs, I could not exhale and so I swallowed the smoke. I was violently sick. I have not smoked since. My mother, who ended her life prematurely as a result of smoking, caught me. All she said was, "Serve you damn well right. You won't do it again". If it had been alcohol it would have been a very different matter. I would have been chastised to within an inch of my life.
We are not here to discuss the merits or demerits of smoking and drinking. However, I suggest to your Lordships that smoking, particularly by children, can do irreparable harm. I am not a doctor but all my family have for many years taken an interest in matters connected with health. Various parts of the children's body are growing, including the sinus and other parts of the breathing apparatus. Therefore, it stands to reason that, if they smoke, they may damage that part of their body and also their throat. That is particularly so because they do not always pick up the right kind of cigarette. They may well smoke a cheap brand of cigarette which is particularly damaging.
One may ask, what about glue sniffing and alcohol and other things which very young children often get up to? It may well be that there have been as many, if not more, deaths, particularly recently, as a result of glue sniffing as there have been as a result of smoking, but there is one point about smoking, whether it concerns children or anyone else, which must be made. One can drink alcohol or sniff glue or whatever else without directly harming other people. Smoking, particularly if it involves children smoking among other children, damages not only the person concerned but the other people around. For that reason alone, the Bill is vital.
As in all legislation, there are problems of enforcement. There are defences written into the Bill. The village shop is a problem. Those who live in villages know that, particularly at weekends, the shop becomes crowded and a lot of kids go in to buy sweets, newspapers and cigarettes. The proprietor of the shop might not be there. Schoolchildren might serve and, under pressure, they might perhaps not notice that they are selling cigarettes to a kid of seven or eight years old. There is a defence in the Bill about that, but, equally, it is the proprietor's responsibility to make 1163 sure that anyone whom he employs and who is selling cigarettes, no matter what their age, knows the consequences of behaving illegally.
Clause 4, which refers to vending machines, is perhaps the only problem clause. I would almost go so far as to say that vending machines should be abolished. Perhaps that is going rather far, but they are a nuisance. People vandalise them, they do not work and, if children cannot get what they want out of them, they will kick them or otherwise damage them. In my view—I do not think that I am alone in this—vending machines could be abolished. That would prevent many problems.
It has been said that if a child smokes once he may not do it again. I recalled a personal instance of that earlier, but I do not advocate a similar course of action. We already have problems with pollution from, among other things, motor cars. We do not want pollution through cigarettes. There is no doubt that children are healthier today. One must perhaps ask oneself why children smoke. Perhaps they do so as a dare; because little Johnny smokes, little Tim should smoke as well to keep up with the lads. We all want to show initiative and to keep up with the lads in the right things, but not with smoking.
The Bill, particularly Clause 4, which deals with vending machines, needs tidying up. Clause 4 is the only provision that may be difficult to enforce. However, everyone who is interested in children's health will wish the Bill well.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe
My Lords, for 17 years I represented the constituency of Bristol, South in the other place. I had the honour to do so until the majority of my local Labour Party management committee decided that I was not a fit and proper person to continue as its public representative. Fortunately, however, I found another niche in Parliament in your Lordships' House.
Bristol, South had a high concentration of tobacco workers, in both cigar and cigarette factories, so I took a keen interest in the industry and did what I could as a constituency member to make sure that my constituents were treated fairly. I never attempted to deny the medical evidence which linked the smoking of tobacco with various diseases and conditions. Recognising some people would continue to smoke, I directed my efforts to trying to persuade them to adopt less harmful methods of smoking such as using filter cigarettes and cigarettes with a reduced tar content. The tar and nicotine tables which should appear in tobacconists are a result of a schedule which I moved in Committee to the smoking Bill introduced by the late Sir Gerald Nabarro when he attempted to get the Bill through the House.
My reason for speaking on the Bill tonight is very specific. A few days ago in your Lordships' House my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney asked a Question about the role of a baby in an Inspector Morse episode and whether all the conditions relating to the use of children in stage and television performances had been 1164 fulfilled. Although the House gained a certain amount of amusement from the Question, it also took seriously the point made by my noble friend.
I should like to explain what I find objectionable about the campaign that has been run. We have been given evidence of the breaking of the law by retailers. That evidence has been compiled by people who have taken under-age children round and told them to go into shops to see whether they can buy cigarettes. In other words, the adults conducting the campaign have incited young children to go in to see whether an offence is committed. That is not right. It is not the proper way for responsible people to collect evidence. It is not right when council officers do it. However worthy the cause, it cannot be right to employ illegal methods in order to collect evidence.
I noticed that my noble friend Lord Rea said that one offence involving a vending machine could close the machine down. It needs only one of the zealous officials that he mentioned to take a 13 year-old round for a few days and you could virtually close down the lot. That point should be considered in Committee.
I do not wish to dwell on the problems in my former constituency. The number of tobacco workers there is dwindling fast. That is a reflection of the substantial reduction in the number of people who smoke. In addition to the workers, there are a large number of pensioners who receive a pension from Wills, or, as it now is, Imperial Tobacco.
People who conduct campaigns do not always think through to the end of their efforts. Perhaps I may take the question of defence. A number of people have pressed for years for substantial cuts in defence. Only this morning I heard on the radio that a study by Bristol polytechnic has predicted that, with the anticipated cuts in defence expenditure in the coming years, 45,000 highly skilled jobs will be lost in the Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Yeovil areas. I do not believe that the people who have pressed all that time for a reduction in defence expenditure have given serious consideration to what those highly skilled people will do if they lose their work. I was the unsuccessful Labour candidate in south Gloucestershire in the 1964 and 1966 general elections. The question of possible defence cuts came up constantly. There was a great deal of sloppy talk about diversification which we still hear today. If it was possible to diversify so easily, surely the firms concerned would already have done so.
I only make that point because today we sometimes seem to be run by pressure groups and minorities. The majority does not belong to pressure groups and minorities. But I sometimes wish that the zealots would think a little further than the direct end of their campaigns, realise that society is interdependent and give some thought to those other problems which are constantly being created and are with us all the time.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for his clear introduction to the Bill in your Lordships' House. It is good to have the noble Duke the Duke of Gloucester with us to speak on the subject. I give full support to the Bill. I hope 1165 that most Members of your Lordships' House will do the same, remembering that this evening we are speaking about children.
As many noble Lords will have noticed, my noble kinsman my husband—not my noble kinsman my cousin (who does not smoke)—smokes far too many cigars. But a few years ago I had some success with him when he used to smoke cigarettes and developed a cough. I said to him, "Give it up for three weeks and see what happens". His cough disappeared. When he started smoking again his cough returned. Once again he gave up cigarettes and has not smoked a cigarette since then. Perhaps one day the same will happen with cigars. What a blessed relief that would be to me.
There is plenty of evidence that smoking tobacco can damage one's health. But to many young people and children that outcome seems a long way off. As a child during the war one of my great discomforts was that so many people smoked. I have always detested the habit, which creates so much pollution in clear air. The smell is awful and the smoke is hurtful to the eyes. For a long time non-smokers have been at risk from passive smoking. It is encouraging that now more places are smoking-free. It has always been a relief to me that people cannot smoke in your Lordships' Chamber.
I have observed that young people who smoke are more inclined to become involved in alcohol and drug abuse. This Bill will help to close loopholes in the current legislation on the sale of tobacco to the under-16s. It is important that the legislation is taken seriously. The laws must be enforced so that children are not put at risk.
Last night a noble Baroness in this House told me that she had been sitting in a non-smoking compartment of a train when some young children entered. They noticed that it was a non-smoking compartment and went out. Some years ago I interviewed a young person in a youth custody establishment—now called a young offenders institution—and asked the boy how old he was. He said that he was 15. I noticed that he had very stained fingers. I asked him, "Do you smoke much?" and he replied, "Yes, but I am trying to cut down". I returned to your Lordships' House the following week and spoke to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who was then a Minister at the Home Office. I told him that in the young offenders institution all the young people from the age of 15 to 21 were allowed to buy tobacco. I was pleased that he was able to put the matter right and I hope that that is still the case.
I am pleased that the Bill states clearly that there will be notices displaying warning statements in retail premises and on vending machines. The notice will state that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 16. I hope that such a notice will also be displayed in any of Her Majesty's penal establishments where there are young people under the age of 16 and tobacco is sold.
It is very worrying that so many young girls smoke. This legislation should help parents who do not smoke but whose children smoke, feeling that it is important to keep up with their peers. Many parents like me—I am a non-smoker but have a smoking partner—often 1166 feel that they have been losing the battle, with no strong legislation to back them up. For many years medical evidence has shown how many illnesses are related to smoking. I lost my father when he was 51. He died from a coronary heart attack. He was a heavy smoker.
Clause 3 deals with the sale of unpackaged cigarettes. Selling children single cigarettes seems an ideal way to introduce them at a low cost to a habit which may kill them in the end. I am told that it is a practice often found in poor areas. In medical terms the people in social class 5 are those most at risk from smoking related diseases. They are most liable to perinatal problems and to the birth of small babies when they are smoking mothers.
Many people will have worked very hard to bring the Bill to its present stage. I can imagine how much discussion there has been on the issue of advertising. I have been involved with the debate on alcohol advertising, which is another problem and lures children into dangerous habits. I should like to congratulate all those who have an interest in protecting children from the dangerous habit of smoking. I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a speedy and safe passage through this House so that it can become law as soon as possible.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Lord Colwyn
My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for the clear way in which he introduced the Bill. I hope that he will be willing to consider amendments, although I have none planned. I thought that his noble friend Lord Cocks made some very valid points about Clause 4 and the problems of vending machines.
Preventing people from polluting the environment is very difficult. The mass action that is necessary depends on unreliable political processes. Laws often control the wrong things at far too great a cost. For example, a non-smoker living or working with a smoker may double his or her chances of contracting lung cancer. Our regulations still ignore this ubiquitous and lethal form of pollution while wasting millions of pounds controlling pollutants of far less consequence.
There is no doubt that the most effective strategy in reducing the costs to health of smoking would be to stamp out the epidemic at its source; namely, in childhood. For that reason I support the Bill.
Why do people continue to smoke when they know the risks? Smokers will not stop smoking while it gives them certain benefits. The campaigners for the elimination of cigarette smoking have not realised that people would lose those benefits. Tobacco has significant effects on behaviour and psychological state. Research has shown that cigarette smokers and other tobacco users find that tobacco makes it easier to cope with over-stimulation, such as city noise and overcrowding. The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a stimulus barrier—a substance that makes it easier for a person to function in an over-stimulating environment.
I think it right that we stress and repeat the problems of smoking. The most serious risks are those 1167 of increased rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The tars of tobacco contain polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, which could possibly cause between 40 and 80 per cent. of all internal human cancers. Those substances can cause mutations in the DNA blueprint material of dividing cells which can result in cancer and lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
Another hazardous chemical contained in cigarette smoke is acetaldehyde which is also found in smog and in the bloodstream of heavy drinkers. That toxic chemical is known as a cross-linker because it makes undesirable chemical bonds via free radical reactions between molecules in the body such as proteins and nucleic acids. Examples of cross-linked proteins are wrinkled, inelastic skin and inelastic, hardened arteries. Emphysema is caused to a substantial extent by cross-linking of lung tissues. Nicotine also has risks, causing blood vessels to constrict, thus increasing blood pressure and causing an increase in blood fats such as cholesterol. Cigarette smoke also contains heavy metals, in particular lead, radioactive polonium and arsenic which poison certain enzyme reactions in the body; and carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides which destroy the ability of the blood to carry oxygen and can form cancer-causing substances.
Even the most heavy adult smokers, though unwilling to give up themselves, recognise the hazard that smoking presents for their children. I hope that the Bill will also help parents actively to discourage their children from taking up smoking.
The follow-up report of the Royal College of Physicians, Health or Smoking, published in 1983, recommended that there should be strengthened legislation concerning the sale of cigarettes to children. A survey in 1982 had shown that 76 per cent. of children from Cumbria and Tyne and Wear admitted that they obtained their cigarettes from shops. At long last we have additional legislation to reinforce the law relating to the sale of cigarettes. I hope that it will be accompanied by wider national action to discourage smoking, as has been the case in other parts of the world. Most hope for the future lies with non-smoking children. The report of the Royal College of Physicians recommended the drawing up of a comprehensive government tobacco control policy including the banning of all forms of promotion. I hope that the current growing disfavour seen in public attitudes towards smoking will encourage such a policy and bring about a dramatic fall in smoking prevalence in this country.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I shall take a different line from that taken by the previous two speakers. Let me say straight away that I am not against tightening up the law relating to the sale of tobacco to young people. I am quite prepared to accept that enforcement should be ensured. However, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, I believe that there may be other motives in promoting the Bill. The 1168 proposed provisions, including the swingeing penalties for tobacco retailers, indicate that the Bill is more than it seems: it is yet another turn of the ratchet towards complete prohibition of smoking both in public and private.
We have reached a stage in this country where a considerable proportion of the population who smoke is being hounded and harassed often by self-appointed groups with puritanical zeal. Their successes to date have been significant, in particular in the monopoly public services where the unaccountable bureaucrats force their views on passengers and employees alike, regardless of public opinion or the normal individual rights one expects in a democratic society. Any excuse, however spurious, will do to initiate, not segregation of smokers on buses, but a complete ban, which does not restrict no-smoking to downstairs but upstairs too. That is quite unjustified. Smokers are entitled to as much consideration as anyone else. It is a great pity that the monopolies use their power to deny smokers that right.
How many of those who are anti-smoking have other obnoxious habits? I do not suggest what they are tonight. But how many of them think nothing of drinking intoxicating liquor and then driving their cars, thus putting their own and other people's lives at risk? There are people—I have met them at cocktail parties—who criticise, often with venom, others who smoke, but I notice that they have one or two glasses of whisky and then drive. People should think about their own dangerous and obnoxious habits before they try to deny other people their habits.
As my noble friend said, the penalty for selling tobacco to young people would increase under the Bill to £2,500. If a packet is split and the sale goes ahead, the penalty could be £3,500, if I am not mistaken. The penalty for selling intoxicating liquor to under-age youngsters remains at £1,000. Yet we read of cases where youngsters have bought themselves intoxicating liquor, got drunk, stolen cars and gone on to kill themselves and other innocent people. One wonders under those circumstances whether we have our priorities right. I might add that people do not batter their wives—or perhaps I should say spouses—and children, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, has told us, because they have had a cigarette.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
That is something very new. I have never heard it yet alleged against smokers that a fellow who has had a cigarette goes home and batters his wife. However, my noble friend on the Front Bench now proposes that it is so. I shall expect to receive proof of that from him in the morning's post.
But people often do this if they have had a skinful of drink. Perhaps drink will be the next target for legislation. Perhaps after that it will be cars. After all, it is alleged that the fumes from cars—which contain all the substances that the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, has illustrated that tobacco smoke contains—cause considerable damage to the environment, to trees, lakes, fish and the ozone layer, and cause global 1169 warming and so on. There is no suggestion yet that smokers damage the world environment—at least I hope not. Perhaps my noble friend will suggest that too.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I look forward to his speech with great interest. I have not heard yet that smokers cause our forests to wither, our fish to die and our climate to change, with dire consequences for millions of people throughout the world.
How many members of ASH or PAT think of such effects when they get into their cars to attend yet another meeting or function to plan their next move against the smoker? In their single-minded pursuit of the smoker, their task helped by lashings of public money, those people often forget that there are products that they and their children may use which may be equally as harmful to themselves, their fellows and the environment. I assure my noble friend that I shall not divide the House tonight. I shall support the Bill although I wish to table amendments at a later stage.
§ 8.30 p.m.
My Lords, there were certain elements of wisdom in the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, as I shall try to demonstrate. I acknowledge immediately that I have several objectionable habits but do not propose to list them here and now. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, deserves the thanks and congratulations of your Lordships' House for bringing forward this modest yet important Bill. I say "modest" because I do not believe that the Bill will achieve a great deal. The enforcement of many of its provisions rests with local authorities and my experience is that at the moment they are not capable of enforcing a great deal, not because they lack the will but because they lack the means. However, the Bill is important because it directs our attention to the most important aspect of smoking. I am a doctor and a former smoker—a relapsed former smoker who smokes again from time to time. I acknowledge that smoking is dangerous to health, damaging to the environment, causes fires, makes our houses untidy, burns our clothes, furniture and carpets and should be discouraged.
I was more than 18 years old when I started smoking. Therefore I speak from personal experience and there are lessons to be drawn from that. As a doctor, I was known to be deeply involved in health education. Whenever I lit a cigarette someone would say, "Oh doctor, I see that you smoke, doesn't it matter?". I had to say that it mattered a great deal but that it just did not matter to me. That was not a tenable position to hold and therefore I decided to stop smoking. I did not smoke for 10 years. I relate that experience merely to illustrate a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn. Cigarette smoking is an addiction the same as any other. I say to noble Lords who have stopped smoking that they are not cured even though they may believe that they are. The desire to smoke in certain circumstances always returns. 1170 That is a fact that the non-smokers who pursue smokers with Cromwellian zeal sometimes fail to recognise.
Not having smoked for 10 years, I said to my wife, "I'll have a cigar after dinner. I am sure that it will not do me any harm". I smoked a cigar and said, "That was beautiful. It will not do me any harm so I shall smoke a cigar every evening after dinner". Before the week was over I was also smoking a cigar before dinner, after lunch and before lunch.
Smoking is a dangerous addiction. I accept that there is a causal relationship with many diseases and not merely a statistical relationship. Perhaps I may illustrate the difference for those who are not Members of this House. I am told that if one goes to the strip clubs in Soho one will find the front rows occupied exclusively by elderly gentlemen with bald heads. That is a statistical relationship. A causal relationship would mean that observing naked women at short range makes one's hair fall out. That is manifestly untrue. Therefore I say that there is a distinct causal relationship and that it is necessary for many reasons to reduce the amount of smoking.
Success will not come as a result of pursuing the addicts and punishing them. It will come as a result of people never starting to smoke. We must begin with the children. Perhaps I may outline a sad fact that I learnt some years ago when I was medical officer to one of Her Majesty's Royal ordnance factories. I conducted some research into the number of people applying to the factory for shop-floor jobs—it was at a time when such jobs in industry were available. We discovered that nine out of 10 applicants were established smokers. At the same time a colleague was carrying out research in universities. He discovered that only one in 10 entrants had ever smoked. I know that the figures have changed a little and that the figures given by Parents Against Tobacco relate to age groups and not to social groups. However, I believe that we have never got the message across to the more deprived social groups in our community whereas we have got it across to the more intelligent groups, the perhaps better educated classes. That is an important issue that we must consider but we shall not achieve success by compulsion.
I return to the interesting and amusing speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, because there is a lesson to be learnt. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, is influential in such matters. He is a humane and kind person and not one to adopt a punitive attitude in respect of such issues. I hope that he understands that the way to get rid of smoking is by persuasion and ensuring that young people never smoke. Anything we can do to that end will be most welcome. The Bill goes a small way towards achieving that.
I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Cocks. He had to wrestle with the problems of many of his constituents who worked in the tobacco factories. I am reminded of a distinguished professor of medicine, now a Member of your Lordships' House, who addressed workers at Wills tobacco factory in Bristol. I was not present but I saw the address on video. At that time the professor was interested in particular in the problem of high blood 1171 cholesterol levels caused as a result of eating eggs and so forth. At the end of his lecture on tobacco-related diseases he bravely agreed to take questions. A lady employee said, "I was fascinated by your lecture and wish to ask one question. Do you believe that we should feel guilty about working in a cigarette factory?". He answered, "No one can divorce himself or herself from the end product of his work. But in so far as it is established that there is a causal relationship between cigarette smoking and certain diseases there must be an element of guilt. But", he went on to say, "that is nothing compared with the guilt of those who sell eggs!". It depends where one stands on the matter, because different arguments can be put forward.
As a doctor I say that it is important that the issue is tackled in the more understanding way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It understands that tobacco addicts have a real problem that requires sympathy and understanding but does not require punishment. A more enlightened attitude of that kind will be more helpful to children. None of my grandchildren smokes and, although one is only a baby, I believe that none will ever smoke. That will not be as a result of my doing but I hope that it will be as a result of the understanding of a serious problem. If we are to solve it we must ensure that people never start to smoke. If we believe that we can solve the problem by prohibiting people from smoking we are mistaken.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Rea upon his admirable presentation of a modest Bill. I congratulate, too, Andrew Faulds, who introduced the Bill in another place. My noble friend sensed that he was given a tougher time by his noble friends on his right and left and I am grateful to him for sponsoring the Bill. I am also especially grateful to His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. I remember the last speech he made, which was very moving and convincing. He has done the same again today.
No one seems to doubt the danger of smoking to human life and health. There is much evidence not only of the dangers to human life and health but also of the linkage with such things as drugs to which the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, referred. A recent survey showed that children who smoke are more likely to take drugs ranging from cannabis to heroin than are non-smoking children. It is even more likely that they will be offered hard drugs, according to a Health Education Authority survey. Children are more likely to smoke if their parents are smokers. Therefore, that is a very important issue to look at.
Recently I saw a television programme—other noble Lords may have seen it too—about the death of a runaway. It was very moving. Two caring, distraught parents referred to their child's slide into vice and eventual death. The programme had been on for some time when the mother said, "By now she was smoking. There seemed to be nothing we could do about it". The mother and father—two caring parents—were smoking throughout the interview.
1172 Parents who smoke are much more likely to have children who smoke. Therefore in this debate we are not talking only about children, although the Bill is about children. The issue concerns us all.
I shall now part company with my two noble friends Lord Cocks and Lord Stoddart of Swindon. I believe that my noble friend Lord Cocks used the word "zealot". I have looked in the dictionary and a zealot is a fanatic. Probably none of us would wish to be labelled a fanatic but many of us are enthusiasts. If we know that smoking is the largest single cause of premature death, what sort of people are we if we do not campaign to improve the situation? If we believe that the threat posed by destruction of the environment is a threat to life on earth, what sort of people are we if we do not campaign to try to improve the situation? If we know that in the world there is famine which is killing literally millions of people, what sort of people are we if we do not campaign to help under-developed countries to support themselves?
I should like to thank the group Parents Against Tobacco. I declare an interest which is not pecuniary, but I am the patron of an organisation called Quit, which was the National Society for Non Smokers. I was not one of its founder members because it was founded 65 years ago, when I was only three years old. It is interesting that at that time there was an organisation called the Clean Air Society. Those societies aim to help people who are addicted. It is pointless to punish addicts. There may be noble Lords in this House who are addicted and Quit is ready to offer its services to help people who are addicted.
I know that addiction is terrible because for years I was addicted to tobacco. It took a great effort of will and much hardship to overcome that addiction. People trying to conquer addictions always have a hard time. However, we should support those who are trying to conquer addictions. We should create a society in which it is not easy to become addicted and in which it is easier to be rid of the addiction once addicted. That is what this Bill is about.
The Bill attempts to ensure that the minimum number of children become addicted. There is no doubt that one is more likely to become addicted to cigarette smoking if one starts smoking young. All the evidence shows that most people who continue to smoke later in life were smoking by the age of 18.
A report published on 3rd May showed the discouraging result that the number of secondary school children who consider themselves to be regular smokers appears to be rising once more after years of anti-tobacco campaigning. The schools health education unit at Exeter University carried out a study which indicates an increase to more than one in six in the proportion of 14 and 15 year-old boys who had smoked in the previous week.
How had those children had access to cigarettes? It may be that in some cases parents had unwisely handed out cigarettes or had left them lying about and the child had stolen one. However, it is more likely that the children had done what the Bill is designed to discourage. They probably went into a tobacconist shop and the tobacconist did not question them about 1173 their age or, if the children were questioned, they told a lie. Nevertheless they were able to obtain the cigarettes.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, put the matter very well when he said that youngsters believe they look big if they are smoking. To a boy, it is like wearing a stetson hat and girls believe they look sophisticated, rather like Marilyn Monroe. There is a sexual image about smoking.
If there is no question that cigarette smoking by children leads to addiction in later life, then we must do everything we can by use of the law to see that they do not have access to something to which it is illegal to have access. It has been illegal since 1935. I congratulate my noble friend on this Bill. Its aim is to ensure that the law is applied and I shall support it in every way. I shall support amendments which seek to strengthen it and oppose amendments which seek to weaken it.
At the same time, let us recognise that we are touching on the tip of an iceberg with this Bill. As His Royal Highness said, we are facing a tremendous challenge. The best way to deal with that challenge is not by scorning people but by helping them. Part of that help is to ensure that they understand the facts.
I should like to say to my two noble friends who have raised questions about this that we must expect enthusiasts to campaign. I have been a campaigner all my life. That is what brought me into the Labour Party. I have campaigned for the social justice which I have seen in my party and I have done that together with my noble friends. I do not know why they believe that it is wrong or unpleasant to campaign for noble causes. I believe that it is a noble cause to try to see that youngsters are fitter and that they become fitter parents.
As time goes by, we learn more about this. We see the effects upon babies of young pregnant mothers smoking during their pregnancy and the effect that it is likely to have on their young children. I shall support my noble friend Lord Rea in every way I can. I say to those who believe that there is something wrong about campaigning that much hard work has been carried out in preparing for this Bill. Many people across the country are giving a great deal of their time to help those who are suffering from all sorts of addict ions. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, is a marvellous example of a campaigner and a helper against drug addiction. I look upon cigarette smoking as being a form of drug use and addiction.
I believe that we need to join hands in helping those affected by the Bill; that is, not only the children but also the tobacconists. They must recognise the law and, if they break the law, then they must be prosecuted.
§ 8.50 p.m
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, we have had a lively debate which was by no means unanimous in tone. Some hares wet e started which I do not intend to pursue, but it was entertaining to watch them run. I see my task as one of setting out the Government's position on the Bill, which I shall do at fairly full length.
1174 I start by thanking the noble Lord, my all-but namesake, Lord Rea, for introducing this Second Reading debate today. All noble Lords who take an interest in the health of the children of this country will be in agreement about the importance of protecting them from the dangers of smoking. The Government are very concerned about children under 16 taking up the smoking habit and the fact that they can often buy cigarettes without difficulty. The Government are convinced that the overwhelming majority of people, particularly parents, want to see an effective Bill on the statute book and therefore fully support this very useful Bill in its present form.
Selling cigarettes to children under 16 has been an offence since 1904. The current legislation is the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and, in Scotland, the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, both as amended by the Protection of Children (Tobacco) Act 1986. But the Government accept that the present law has not been particularly effective. The measures in the Bill concentrate on preventing the supply of cigarettes to children under 16 in a number of ways.
Clauses 1 and 2 will toughen the present law by amending Section 7 of the 1933 Act in England and Wales, and Section 18 of the 1937 Act in Scotland, in several respects. At present it is an offence to sell cigarettes to a person who is "apparently" under the age of 16. That has proved to be too imprecise and difficult to enforce. Under Clauses 1 and 2 the offence will be committed where the person is actually under 16. The Government recognise, however, that even the most conscientious retailer may occasionally be deceived by children who look older than their years. Clauses 1 and 2 also ensure, therefore, that retailers who can show that they took all reasonable precautions should have a defence against criminal charges. Basically, however, the Bill will shift the onus of demonstrating that a sale to a person under the age of 16 has been made unwittingly from the prosecuting authority to the shopkeeper.
Clauses 1 and 2 also increase the penalties for selling tobacco to children under 16. The new maximum fine will be increased from level 3 on the standard scale of penalties—currently £400—to level 4 which is at present —1,000 but will rise to £2,500 when the Criminal Justice Bill comes into force. That will be a warning to those retailers who continue to disregard the law that they risk a much heavier penalty if they are caught. The genuine and honest retailer who does not sell tobacco to children has obviously nothing to fear from that change.
The first two clauses in the Bill also tighten the law on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines to children under 16. The purpose of the amendment to the existing law is to prevent vending machines becoming an alternative source of supply for the under 16s. The Bill will make it easier for the courts to make an order to prevent the machine being used by children or, if necessary, to remove the machine from the premises where it is kept. At present, the courts have to be satisfied that a vending machine is being used extensively by children under 16. Under the Bill courts will be able to take action if they are satisfied 1175 that the machine has been used by any one person under 16. The maximum fine for failure to comply with such an order will be increased from level 3 to level 4 on the standard scale.
I now turn to Clause 3 of the Bill. This clause prohibits the sale of unpackaged cigarettes. Noble Lords may be asking why this clause is necessary as it is already an offence to sell cigarettes to children whether loosely or in packets. The Government accept that this clause partly duplicates the present law. However, the Bill's sponsors have been particularly concerned about the practice of children initially buying cigarettes in ones or twos and thereby getting into the smoking habit.
We recognise that there is a strongly held view that some retailers contrive to believe that there is nothing unlawful about selling single cigarettes to children, or, where they do understand that it is unlawful, believe that they can get away with it. We therefore accept the argument for having a specific provision on the face of the Bill to prohibit the sale of single cigarettes.
The clause will limit the rights of adults in a very small way in that they will no longer be able to buy cigarettes singly. However, I can assure noble Lords that nothing in this clause prevents retailers from continuing to sell cigars either singly or in packs of less than 10 to adults. I am not sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will be pleased to hear that.
Clause 4 requires the publication of warning statements in retail premises and on vending machines to the effect that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 16. Clause 4 was substantially amended and enhanced during discussion in another place. The clause as it now stands requires a warning notice to be placed in retail premises and on vending machines to remind staff and customers of the law. The Government have always supported action along those lines and the clause will ensure that nobody who sells tobacco can claim ignorance of the law.
The nature of the warning notice will be laid down in regulations. That will allow flexibility to introduce changes if loopholes or problems become apparent. But I can assure the House that the intention is to require a sign of the type and size originally envisaged by the Bill's supporters. All interested parties will, of course, be consulted on the draft regulations; and we will seek the active involvement and co-operation of the tobacco industry and the retail trade in implementing this measure.
In addition to the new regulation-making power, the original proposal for a sign in shops has been extended to vending machines, and a number of other minor drafting changes have been made in another place to clarify what is required. I hope that this House will agree that that is a sensible way to proceed.
Clauses 5 and 6 are at the heart of the Bill and deal with the responsibilities of local authorities. Local authorities in England and Wales already have powers under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to ensure that the law in this area is being observed by retailers and to prosecute those who sell tobacco to young children. The purpose of Clause 5 is to require local authorities to consider at least once a year to 1176 what extent it is appropriate for them to carry out an enforcement programme designed to eradicate the practice of selling cigarettes to those under 16 years. This programme of action relates to offences under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the new offences under Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill which, as I have already said, are designed to strengthen the law in this field. Much time was spent framing Clause 5 in debate in another place. In the format in which we see it before us today the legislation will, I believe, achieve the overall effect of raising the profile of this offence and ensure that it is taken seriously both by offenders and prosecutors.
The comprehensive approach we have adopted springs from the concern that local authorities may not have been taking their responsibilities under the 1933 Act seriously enough for a variety of reasons including, in some cases, the belief that such powers to act did not exist. What Clause 5 does is to re-emphasise those areas where local authorities have powers to take action in this field. It prompts them into considering exactly what they might and should be doing to prevent the sale of cigarettes to children. In combination with the other clauses of the Bill Clause 5 will stimulate local authorities into action.
As noble Lords will have noted, district councils in the shire counties were not on the list of those authorities to whom Clause 5 applies. However, that does not mean that they will not wish to take action, nor that they will be unable to do so. District councils have powers under Section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972 to prosecute for such offences.
The Government's determination to see that Clause 5 produces results is reflected in our commitment to back it up with a circular to local authorities, prepared jointly by those departments with an interest in this field, explaining exactly what local authorities' powers are to take action on these offences. It will remind them of their responsibilities in this field and the importance which the Government attach to taking action against offenders. It is hoped that, with the assistance of those already engaged in these activities, the circular will provide examples of best practice. These will serve to explain to local authorities the various ways in which the problem can be tackled. Local authority annual reports will be the vehicle for conveying information to the public on local action in this area.
I turn now to Clause 6 which deals in much the same way with the position in Scotland but reflects the different prosecution arrangements which apply there. It honours the commitment given by the Government when the matter was in Committee in another place. The Government amendment on enforcement action by local authorities in Scotland, introduced at Report stage in another place, was welcomed by the Bill's sponsors.
As I am sure noble Lords will be aware, all criminal offences in Scotland are dealt with by the Procurator Fiscal and to require local authorities in Scotland, in the exercise of their enforcement role under this Bill, to bring prosecutions in respect of offences would cut across these existing arrangements in an unacceptable way. That does not mean, however, that under the 1177 new duty which we propose under Clause 6, local authorities in Scotland would be unable to report offences to the Procurator Fiscal. The position would be the same as that which already applies in respect of other legislation enforced by local authorities in Scotland—for example, the law relating to consumer protection—and which operates quite satisfactorily without a specific reference to prosecutions or to the Procurator Fiscal.
As in England, the Scottish Office will be issuing a circular to local authorities and other relevant interests about the implications of the new measures, including the updating of theCode of Practice on the Publication of Annual Reports and Finance Statements by Local Authoritiesin Scotland to reflect the provision of the Bill.
Finally, I turn to Clause 8 to explain how the Bill is intended to apply to Northern Ireland. Successive Governments have taken the view that during direct rule legislation for Northern Ireland on matters such as this should generally be effected by separate Order in Council, with the force of primary legislation. That is what will happen in this case.
We believe that this Bill is a useful measure designed to protect children by cracking down on those irresponsible retailers who disregard the law by selling them cigarettes and so play a part in introducing them to a pernicious and addictive habit, the disadvantages of which we have only come fully to appreciate in our own time and which they may spend much of the rest of their lives attempting to shake off. I am sure that noble Lords will want to give the Bill a Second Reading and ensure that it is on the statute book as soon as possible.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, before asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, I wish to thank all noble Lords who have contributed to what I believe has been one of the most lively debates that we have had for some time. I particularly appreciated the contribution of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, who made a very wise, realistic and penetrating analysis of the problem. I wish to emphasise a point made by my noble friend Lord Ennals. This Bill is not just about children, but about all of us. The problem may start with children but the damage is done later in life.
I do not have time to reply to every speaker, especially as some have already been answered by speakers who followed them. It is incumbent on me to make some response to my noble friends sitting on my left and on my right who added a great deal of life to the whole evening. My noble friend Lord Cocks doubted whether it was legal, certainly not decent, to ask children of 13 years of age to go into a shop to buy cigarettes when they are being watched by an adult. I am informed that that practice is not illegal. It would only be so if a police officer set up someone to act as anagent provocateur.Trading standards officers often have to incite tradesmen to commit offences in order to be able to find out whether they have breached the law.
1178 My noble friend asked about diversifying the activities of the tobacco industry. As he well knows, it is already diversifying. The British American Tobacco company already has probably more money in other activities than in the manufacture of cigarettes. However, the tobacco industry will continue to make cigarettes as long as it can make a profit. It will continue to make profits as long as there is a market. The market will continue as long as people continue to become addicted to the habit. That is one reason why this Bill is absolutely necessary.
My noble friend on my left launched into what I feel was almost a tirade of paranoid fancy. It was very amusing. He was almost into overdrive when he spoke about being hounded with puritanical zeal by self-appointed groups, helped by lashings of public money. The lashings of public money which the anti-smoking campaigners—that is a nicer description than puritan—have is very tiny indeed compared with that available to the tobacco industry. I believe it is about 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of the money available to the tobacco industry.
I was extremely grateful to hear my namesake, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, express such a constructive view of the Bill. That gives me hope that we shall have a fairly swift passage of the Bill through this House. It only remains for me to thank all speakers yet again for their extremely interesting and valuable contributions. I commend the Bill to the House.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.