Clause 58 - Tobacco retail packaging

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 14 May 2024.

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Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health) 10:00, 14 May 2024

I beg to move amendment 18, in clause 58, page 30, line 5, leave out “may” and insert

“must, within six months of the passage of this Act,”.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 19, in clause 58, page 30, line 29, at end insert—

“(3A) The regulations must include—

(a) a requirement for information to be provided on packaging or otherwise supplied with a product stating that smoking does not reduce stress and anxiety;

(b) the specific wording of the statement to be displayed on the packaging or otherwise supplied with a product; and

(c) requirements related to the size or appearance of the statement to be displayed on the packaging or otherwise supplied with a product.”

Clause stand part.

Amendment 22, in clause 60, page 32, line 5, at end insert—

“(f) the markings on cigarette papers (including the use of branding, trademarks or logos)”.

This amendment enables the introduction of health warnings on cigarette papers.

Clause 60 stand part.

Amendment 23, in clause 69, page 37, line 19, at end insert—

“‘cigarette papers’ includes anything intended to be used for encasing tobacco products or herbal smoking products for the purpose of enabling them to be smoked;”.

These amendment is linked to Amendment 22.

New clause 4—Mandatory health information inside tobacco packs—

“The Secretary of State must consult on draft regulations to require tobacco manufacturers to include within tobacco and cigarette packs an insert setting out—

(a) warnings about the dangers of tobacco to a person’s health and wellbeing, and

(b) information about sources of advice and support on stopping smoking.”

This new clause commits the government to consult on draft regulations to require mandatory pack inserts containing health information such as quit messaging.

New clause 5—Mandatory health warnings on cigarettes and cigarette rolling papers—

“The Secretary of State must consult on draft regulations to require tobacco manufacturers to print health warnings on individual cigarette sticks and cigarette rolling papers.”

This new clause commits the government to consult on regulations to require the placing of specified health warnings on cigarettes and rolling papers by tobacco manufacturers and importers.

New clause 12—Consultation on mandating quit information messages inside tobacco packs: publication—

“The Secretary of State must, within three months of the passage of this Act, publish a response to the consultation on mandating quit information messages inside tobacco packs.”

This new clause requires the Secretary of State to publish a response to the consultation led by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities on mandating quit information messages inside tobacco packs.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

Let me touch briefly on new clause 12, on the consultation on pack inserts. The Government committed to consulting on regulations a year ago, and the Department for Health and Social Care consultation closed on 10 October 2023. However, a response has still not been published, despite Government principles stating that it should have been published within 12 weeks, or that an explanation should have been provided for why that was not possible. Will the Minister please promise that the response will be published soon, so that we can get on with putting the regulations in place with the full information to hand?

Our new clause 12 would require the Secretary of State to publish the response within three months, which is more than generous, given the delays to date. That would then pave the way for the real prize—the real purpose of clause 58—which is to allow us to introduce stronger and more detailed quit messaging in tobacco products, so that more smokers kick the habit for good.

On average, smokers take 30 attempts to quit smoking before quitting for good, so it is essential to do everything possible to motivate them to attempt to quit. There is sufficient evidence from Canada, where tobacco pack inserts have been mandatory since 2000, that they can help to motivate smokers to quit. That is why we tabled amendments 18 and 19, which I would like to be considered together. They would require the Secretary of State to make regulations within six months to require tobacco companies to include information in their products to dispel the myth that smoking relieves stress and anxiety.

I am passionate about this issue. In my maiden speech, I vowed to campaign to improve the mental health of the young people of this nation and now, in Mental Health Awareness Week, we have the opportunity through this Bill to do something that could make a real difference. In the evidence sessions the other week, we heard a passionate and moving testimony from Mark Rowland of the Mental Health Foundation that convinced me all the more that taking this action is the right thing to do.

Smoking doubles the risk of people developing depression, more than one in two people with severe mental health conditions smoke, and the life expectancy of those with mental health conditions is reduced. The issues that our young people and children face with their mental health are well known to everyone present, and smoking simply exacerbates those issues. Yet a 2022 survey found that over 40% of smokers in England cite stress relief as a reason why they smoke. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the myth that smoking reduces stress and anxiety persists, in all its utter perversity.

This has not happened by accident. It is a myth that has been manufactured and spread by the tobacco industry. Powerful companies have commissioned research and fed it into the public domain, to create the impression that smoking has medicinal properties. It does not. We see all the time, in any gritty noir TV show or film, the stressed protagonist busily drawing on a cigarette before they face their demons. We can see how, if we do not confront such imagery head-on, it serves only to reinforce the myth.

The amendments seek to send a clear message that smoking does not relieve stress or anxiety and actually exacerbates them. The feeling that someone gets when they take a drag on a cigarette is not a real health benefit; it is a temporary relief from the withdrawal from the addiction that makes them feel worse in the first place. That is what is so insidious about this whole dynamic: it preys on the anxious, the depressed and the vulnerable.

As I have said, more than one in two people with severe mental health conditions smoke, yet whereas almost everyone understands the link between smoking and cancer, the link with mental health conditions is much less well understood. As the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation told us, it was not until 2008 that smoke-free policies were made mandatory in mental health settings. A third of mental health professionals had reservations about those policies, not understanding the link, but the evidence we have now is strong: people with mental health problems are likely to feel much calmer and more positive and to have a better quality of life after giving up smoking. Evidence suggests that stopping smoking is as effective as taking antidepressants.

As the Committee will be aware, we already face a mental health crisis in this country, with a quarter of our health burden being a result of mental ill health. We should take any opportunity to reduce that burden, so I urge the Minister to accept the amendment so that we can rid society of this insidious myth for good.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Sir Gary. I rise to speak in favour of the measures that I and other colleagues on the Committee have proposed.

Amendments 22 and 23 are essential consequential amendments that seek to introduce markings on cigarette papers and to define cigarette papers so that that is clear in the law. I am interested in the Minister’s view of our proposals. We seek to make sure that health warnings can be put literally on to the cigarettes and other tobacco products themselves, rather than just on the packs.

New clause 5 is intended to look at mandatory health warnings on cigarettes and rolling papers, and at the regulations that would need to be rolled out and consulted on among tobacco manufacturers. It would enable us to have a consultation, rather than to change the law immediately.

Our proposal is not new. It was first proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, of which I am the chairman, in our 2021 report and recommendations to the Government. Importantly, our recommendation was endorsed by Javed Khan in his 2022 report. It is one recommendation that has not, thus far, been included in the Bill.

This is not even a novel policy. My noble Friend in the other place, Lord Young of Cookham, first proposed cigarette warnings when he was a Health Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government—a great Government at the time. His statement at the 1979 world conference on tobacco and health bears repeating. He said:

“The solution to many of today’s medical problems will not be found in the research laboratories of our hospitals, but in our Parliaments. For the prospective patient, the answer may not be cure by incision at the operating table, but prevention by decision at the Cabinet table…Historically, a nation would look to its doctors for better health. Now they should look to their Members of Parliament.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, echoed Lord Young’s comments when he said to this Committee that the legislation we are considering is “possibly the most important” piece of legislation since Parliament passed the National Health Service Act 1946, which led to the formation of the NHS on 5 July 1948. In his view, the legislation that we are considering is

“one of the most important—possibly the most important—pieces of legislation since the passage of that Act.”––[Official Report, Tobacco and Vapes Public Bill Committee, 1 May 2024; c. 89, Q129.]

This year, my noble Friend in the other House, Lord Young, will have been in Parliament for 50 years—50 years in which he has fought long and hard to end the blight that smoking leaves on society. It would be a just tribute to his efforts if the Government committed to implement this policy, which he first called for more than 30 years ago. Tobacco manufacturers already print on to cigarette papers, so it would be cheap and easy to implement.

New clause 4, on mandatory health information inside tobacco products, would commit the Government to consult again on draft regulations to require mandatory pack inserts containing health information such as quit messaging. Pack inserts were first proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health in our 2021 report, that recommendation was also endorsed by Javed Khan in 2022, and the Government consulted on their introduction in a consultation that closed on 10 October 2023.

I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister will be well aware that the Government’s own guidelines state:

“Government responses to consultations should be published in a timely fashion”, which is defined as

“within 12 weeks of the consultation”, or they should

“provide an explanation why this is not possible.”

It is disappointing that, more than seven months after the consultation closed, the Government have still not published their response or given a reason for not doing so.

The Government have clearly been busy and the fruits of their labours are welcome in the Bill, but pack inserts have been in place in Canada since 2000. The evidence from Canada is that over time smokers are more likely to read inserts and that reading them is associated with a greater likelihood of attempting to quit and of successfully quitting. Pack inserts are an easy and direct way to communicate directly and specifically with smokers, and they have enormous potential to target messages about the effectiveness of vaping in helping smokers to quit. I support the amendments and look forward to responses from the Minister and Committee colleagues.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 10:15, 14 May 2024

I thank hon. Members for this debate and am grateful for the proposed amendments. I am sympathetic to the aims of the amendments, particularly those on pack inserts. They would provide an opportunity to introduce positive messages and provide more advice and support directly to smokers to help them to quit. The international evidence base shows that pack inserts can be effective in helping people to quit. For example, an evaluation in Canada showed that 26% to 31% of smokers had read the inserts at least once in the past month, which increased the likelihood of their making a quit attempt.

Pack inserts would complement our existing packaging measures, which include health warnings on packs and pointers to NHS advice on the benefits of quitting. We know that quitting smoking is associated with reduced depression, anxiety and stress, and that it improves mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke. Although it is a common belief that smoking can help one to relax, the evidence shows that it actually increases anxiety and tension, as it interferes with chemicals in the brain. Studies show that there are numerous mental health benefits from quitting smoking; quitting can in fact be as effective as antidepressants.

However, I point out to hon. Members that we already possess the regulation-making powers to go further on tobacco packaging. The Government’s eight-week consultation on pack inserts ran from August to October ’23. It explored whether we could help more smokers to quit by providing positive quit-themed information in tobacco packaging, alongside the existing information on harms. Proposed themes included the physical and mental health benefits of quitting, the financial benefits and advice on stop-smoking aids. The work to respond to the consultation is under way, and we are committed to responding in this parliamentary Session. That response will include details on the specific themes that may be included, such as anxiety and stress.

Amendments 22 and 23 and new clause 5 centre on the introduction of health warnings on cigarettes and cigarette papers, and would require the Secretary of State to undertake a consultation on that. As with new clause 4 and amendments 18 and 19, I am sympathetic towards the aims of the amendments, which would encourage smokers to quit and provide them with information on the dangers of tobacco. However, we already have some of the most stringent regulations in the world on tobacco packaging and product design, which emphasise the health harms of tobacco. They include the requirement for plain packaging and graphic picture warnings on the outside of cigarette packs. A recent post-implementation review stated that those measures remain effective in helping smokers to quit, and in deterring children from taking up the habit. We will continue to monitor the evidence as to whether further health-harm messages are required, and take further action if necessary. For that reason, I ask the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston to withdraw her amendments.

Clauses 58 and 60 are both in part 4 of the Bill, which relates to the product requirements for tobacco, vapes and nicotine products, including in respect of packaging and flavours. The powers in part 4 are UK-wide. Clauses 58 and 60 replace existing powers set out in the Children and Families Act 2014: clause 58 replaces powers to make provision about the retail packaging of tobacco products and clause 60 replaces powers to make regulations about other tobacco product requirements, such as the markings on them and the use of branding and logos.

The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 introduced requirements using the relevant powers, and the Bill will not change the effect of those regulations, which will remain in force. Examples include the regulations covering the minimum pack requirement of 20 cigarettes, the requirements about the colour and shape of cigarette packaging, and the permitted colours forming part of a cigarette. The packaging requirements were originally introduced because there is evidence that standardised packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products and decreases or delays the uptake of smoking by young people. I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

I will press amendment 19 to a vote, but not amendment 18. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 19, in clause 58, page 30, line 29, at end insert—

“(3A) The regulations must include—

(a) a requirement for information to be provided on packaging or otherwise supplied with a product stating that smoking does not reduce stress and anxiety;

(b) the specific wording of the statement to be displayed on the packaging or otherwise supplied with a product; and

(c) requirements related to the size or appearance of the statement to be displayed on the packaging or otherwise supplied with a product.”—(Preet Kaur Gill.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 2 Tobacco and Vapes Bill — Clause 58 - Tobacco retail packaging

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.