Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

June 23rd, 2012:

Peer: Tobacco industry treated ‘shabbily’

A Conservative peer has accused the government of treating the tobacco industry “shabbily”.

At question time on 19 June 2012, Lord Naseby tabled a question asking ministers whether they would meet representatives of non-governmental organisations, the tobacco industry and retailers to discuss policy options aimed at curbing tobacco consumption, such as banning smoking in cars or ensuring that cigarettes are sold in plain packets.

Health Minister Earl Howe responded that Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control “requires the government to protect the development of public health policies from the vested and commercial interests of the tobacco industry”.

Lord Naseby asked: “How is it possible that, in a country that believes in freedom of speech, a highly regulated and legitimate industry employing thousands of people, providing millions of pounds of revenue for Her Majesty’s government, can be treated quite so shabbily?”

Earl Howe said that the government welcomed input from industry and retailers but health ministers would only have reason to meet them if there was a specific matter for discussion, rather than general tobacco-control policies.

Lord Naseby did not receive much support for his comments from his fellow peers.

Shadow health spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath urged the minister to “continue his efforts to keep these companies at some distance”, as tobacco had been described by the World Health Organisation as “proven scientifically to be addictive [and] to cause disease and death”.

Earl Howe agreed that “there is no safe level of smoking” but insisted that ministers do not “close our ears to what the tobacco industry has to say”.

Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon accused ministers of hypocrisy for not meeting “their tax gatherers” and said that if the government really believed tobacco was so harmful they would ban it.

Liberal Democrat Lord Rennard said the tobacco industry was responsible for the deaths of 300 of their own consumers in the UK each day, and accused manufacturers of having known of the dangers of smoking but denying them for many decades.

Other questions were on the Trident replacement programme, business regulation, and visa applications to the United Kingdom from Africa.