It’s good when you find something that you agree with your MP on.
Pleased therefore to learn that our Kevin is supporting the abstention of smoking in a private vehicle, in the interest of our children’s health. As to whether it should be an offence I am sitting on the fence at the moment on this. How this will be ‘policed’ still remains to be seen, so we shall just have to hope that it is done in a fair and unbiased manner and that any financial penalties will go to Health Services and not just into the council coffers, to be spent at their discretion.
I am not sure about the statement “ If e-cigarettes were also licensed and charged at the same rate, that would benefit everybody”. Kevin Barron does not elaborate on this in this speech. Perhaps he talks about it in more detail elsewhere.
I am in definate disagreement with ” alcohol is not as bad as tobacco” and shall be asking my MP about how he has come to make this sweeping comment.
As for the “addiction” issue of tobacco, alcohol or any other drug, I have a personal view on this and am willing to discuss this here if asked.
“Kevin Barron (Rother Valley, Labour)
Listening to this debate, I could have heard the same things said in 2006 when the House came to a decision on smoking in public places. That is public health legislation which the Prime Minister says is good legislation, although he did not vote for it at the time. I hope that Members will bear that in mind.
I hope that Members will also bear in mind, as we always must when considering such legislation, that currently in the UK over 100,000 people a year die prematurely from smoking tobacco. I support the amendment, which will, I hope, further restrict the use of tobacco not just by young people but, in turn, by adults. As the Minister said, two thirds of people who start smoking are young when they do so, and it is addictive.
One of my points relates to what the Minister said about e-cigarettes not being sold to people under the age of 18. Some people argue that e-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco use, but the organisation that I have worked with on this over many years—Action on Smoking and Health, which Philip Davies clearly admires—says that there is no firm evidence for that at this stage; it is doing another survey this year. The important thing is that over 2 million people are using e-cigarettes, some of them so that they smoke less tobacco and some so that they smoke no tobacco. I agree with the Minister that we should view them as a medicinal product—as part of the family of nicotine replacement therapies. That should be our approach in stopping these awful deaths from smoking. VAT on nicotine replacement therapy products is currently 5%. If e-cigarettes were also licensed and charged at the same rate, that would benefit everybody.
I support what the Minister said about proxy purchasing. This has not yet been addressed and it should have been. Alcohol and tobacco are harmful, depending on how they are used, although alcohol is not as bad as tobacco.
We have debated standardised packaging many times in the House and heard the arguments about printers being affected, and so on. The hon. Member for Shipley said that standardised packages are very complicated, and of course they are. I hope that we will have better safeguards to stop people engaging in contraband activities. There is no way that this measure will do anything other than stop people advertising on cigarette packets the products that cause all these premature deaths.
I support the Government and the Opposition on banning smoking in cars with children. Enforcement is always an issue, and we accept that. When I first started driving, people had to have seat belts in cars but did not have to wear them, and only one person in four did so. When the law was changed, 90% of people started wearing them practically overnight. This is about changing habits. We could not have a worse situation than somebody in a confined space like a car smoking cigarettes when children are there.
Everybody said that the ban on smoking in public places would never be enforced. I was on the Health Committee when we had that debate and we went to Dublin to look at what had happened in Ireland. A guy there tried to get publicity by saying, “I’m going to be smoking in this pub tonight. Will you come down and get me?” However, there were very few problems with enforcement and the same is true of us now. We have not seen all the details, but, as far as I am concerned, the provision is a further step towards protecting young people and future generations from premature death as a result of ill health, and we should support that.”