All 1 Lord Rennard contributions to the Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill [HL] 2021-22

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Fri 3rd Dec 2021

Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill [HL]

Lord Rennard Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 3rd December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
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My Lords, almost exactly 20 years ago, I described in this place how 300 lives were being lost each day in this country because of smoking tobacco. I asked then what the scale of public outcry demanding action would be if a similar number of lives were lost as, say, the result of a plane crash occurring every single day. My speech was in support of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones’s Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, a Private Member’s Bill which he successfully steered through all its stages and which, when it became law, largely banned tobacco advertising.

Measures of tobacco control such as that have been shown to be effective and significantly reduced rates of smoking in this country. The facts have refuted the many self-interested and bogus claims made over many years by the proponents of the tobacco industry. However, further action is needed because smoking remains a leading cause of premature death, now killing around 250 people every day in the UK. To put that in perspective, 151 people died yesterday as a result of the Covid pandemic. People should be horrified to hear that smoking is likely to have killed more people last year than Covid-19.

We need this Bill to help reduce the appeal of cigarettes to children and young people and to encourage existing smokers to quit. Who could seriously disagree with those aims, given that half of all people who smoke will die because of the habit and most people who take up smoking do so when they are young?

The warnings on cigarette packs have helped to inform smokers of the serious dangers associated with the habit and helped some of them to quit, but evidence shows that the effectiveness of pack warnings wanes over time, and new measures are needed to grab the attention of those who continue to smoke.

It is a terrible thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, referred to, that many children have access to individual cigarettes. This means that a health warning on individual cigarettes is necessary to help prevent young people taking up the habit. Warnings on cigarette sticks are a logical next step, following the successful introduction of warnings on cigarette packs.

Reducing the number of children and young people who take up smoking is vital if we are to reduce health inequalities. Half of the difference in life expectancy between those in the poorest communities and those in the most affluent in this country is accounted for by smoking tobacco. Tackling this issue is a must if levelling up is ever to be a meaningful and not meaningless slogan. Around two-thirds of adult smokers take up smoking as children. Currently, 280 children take up smoking every day in England. Only a third of these children will presently succeed in quitting during their lifetime, and another third will die of a smoking-related disease.

The Bill’s proposal should not be seen in isolation, but as part of a comprehensive strategy for delivering the smoke-free by 2030 ambition, which is government policy and to which we all subscribe. The detail of all that is required was set out in the latest report from the All-Party Group on Smoking and Health, of which I am proud to be a member. I am pleased that the Government have committed to considering its recommendations for the forthcoming tobacco control plan, but we are still waiting to hear when we will see the details of that plan, publication of which is not yet in sight.

We cannot afford to wait before acting. The Health and Care Bill presents a perfect opportunity to enact measures to reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking and, in particular, to reduce the number of children and young people who become addicted to it. The Government’s Bill could provide for the introduction of dissuasive cigarettes, as suggested in this Bill. Further amendments could provide for a complementary package of proposals to address the loopholes in existing legislation, strengthen tobacco regulation still further and provide the funding for tobacco control measures, which are desperately needed if the Government’s stated ambition of being smoke-free by 2030 is to be achieved.

In the meantime, we should signal strong support for this Bill, as we did 20 years ago for my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones’s Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill. As I said then:

“There are many terrible things in this world: natural disasters and those made by man. Sadly, there is nothing we can do about many of them. But smoking-related deaths and illnesses are terrible things about which we can do something, by supporting the Bill.”—[Official Report, 2/11/01; col. 1685.]