Health Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench)
My Lords, we have heard the arguments about health for children and those against having temptations for children. I now want to address vending machines. It is said that less than 1 per cent of tobacco sales are from vending machines. The British Heart Foundation estimated that in 2006, more than 46,000 children acquired their cigarettes from vending machines. Forty-five million cigarettes were sold to 11 to 15 year-olds through vending machines. There are 22 countries in Europe that have already taken the step of banning vending machines. Banning vending machines will not restrict smokers' choice at all; in fact, it will support those small shopkeepers on whose behalf we have previously heard arguments.
If someone is desperate to get their packet of cigarettes and there is not a vending machine in the club, they will go to the small local corner shop, most of which are open until late at night. However, the reality is that among adults, only about one in 20 uses a vending machine. Underage children and teenagers can easily obtain cigarettes from vending machines. They are meant to be installed in the eyesight of whoever is manning the bar in a pub, but "within the eyesight" sometimes means not facing the majority of customers and serving the majority of customers.
There have been several studies of young people going in and flagrantly buying cigarettes from vending machines. It has been argued, "If the ID was enforced more closely, they could be monitored more closely". The reality is that all one has to do is to type "Fake ID" into Google and it can be bought for £25. It looks remarkably like any normal ID. Someone serving in a pub or bar with many customers will not be able to tell the difference. Indeed, when I was shown a so-called European driving licence, I did not spot that it was fake until my nephew quite cannily pointed out how I could recognise that it was. However, if that was flashed up at somebody who was busy serving, believing it would be completely understandable. We know that age verification is not sought in any case.
I can see no argument for maintaining vending machines. It has been said that the vending machine manufacturers might feel under threat, but they would not be. They can easily put other things in boxes of that size. I have a couple of commercial suggestions for them: a "his and hers" refresher pack; his containing aftershave, a toothbrush, some breath freshener and deodorant; hers containing deodorant, a personal wipe and a toothbrush. They could also contain other things or become lucky-dip vending machines. There is no sound commercial argument for maintaining cigarette vending machines, but there is a sound health argument to remove a large source of cigarettes for the underage when we know that 17 per cent of children get their cigarettes through vending machines.