Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 - Motion to Regret

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 4th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 8:15 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, from my point of view, my noble friend Lord Callanan chose to talk very selectively about the record of the Conservative Party and the coalition Government in relation to tobacco control. I think he should bear in mind that Conservatives—myself, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham—worked hard from the Opposition Benches in another place, and succeeded in securing the ban on smoking in public places. When we came into the coalition Government together, we implemented the ban on sales through vending machines and a progressive ban on displays in shops. I also initiated the consultation on standardised packaging, following discussions with Nicola Roxon, who was then Health Minister in Australia, which my successors have taken forward. The product of all that is that we have not only secured continuing reductions in the overall prevalence of smoking—albeit I could wish this rate was faster—but we secured, I think three years ago, recognition that we had among the toughest tobacco-control regimes anywhere in the world. That is right and we should strive to make that the case.

I know it would not be the effect of the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Callanan, but were it passed it would indicate your Lordships’ desire to withdraw the regulations if they could. That would be an entirely retrograde step. I will not go through all the ways in which the tobacco products directive helps to strengthen the tobacco control regime other than in relation to e-cigarettes, but it certainly does.

I will isolate one important point which has not yet been mentioned. Much of what we have done in recent years, from my point of view and that of my colleagues—Anne Milton when she was Public Health Minister, and I believe it was among Anna Soubry’s and Jane Ellison’s objectives subsequently—was to focus on reducing the initiation of smoking among young people. We have some 200,000 young people a year initiating smoking. That is what we have to bring down. We want to arrive at the point where the initiation of smoking is minimised. As part of that, we have to look frankly and critically at how electronic cigarettes and vaping can contribute to the reduction of smoking, through access to smoking cessation services. It is absolutely right and I do not have any brief against e-cigarettes in that respect. But, to pick up the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, we have to understand what the social and behavioural impacts of large numbers of people continuing to smoke e-cigarettes in the long term look like. I am not sure that promoting it through advertising is necessarily the right way to go.

We should enable smokers to access e-cigarettes and vaping, and do everything we can through the public health budget. Noble Lords will know—I will go into it on another day when more time allows—that my objective in creating a separate public health budget with local authorities was to maximise and protect our preventive activity, not to see it subsequently reduced. I deplore that fact because we were making considerable progress with smoking cessation services, as we should. But we also have to ensure, in addition to the use of e-cigarettes in a way that reduces smoking, that we do not create a new mechanism which might entrench in young people an expectation that they should initiate any kind of smoking, be it through vaping and using e-cigarettes or, even worse, through smoking tobacco. For that reason I agree entirely with many other speakers that it would be undesirable to support my noble friend’s Motion, and I hope that the Minister will agree that we should reject it.