28 April 2005

S2M-2667 Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 April 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2667, in the name of Andy Kerr, that the general principles of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill be agreed to.


… … …


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It has been said that life provides five kinds of people: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; those who wonder what happened; those who did not know that anything happened; and those to whom things happened. As with so many subjects, we in the Parliament need to be those who make things happen for the benefit of those to whom things happened. Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the primary issue with which the bill deals. I come to today's debate as an unashamed extremist. Bertrand Russell said that only extremists create change; those who sit in the middle and agree with the herd create no change. That is why I have no tolerance for those who wish to maintain the status quo.

Let me deal with just a few of the claims that are made by the smoking lobby in one form or another. Nanette Milne claimed that the industry is keen to co-operate, but I need only refer her to the TMA's evidence to the Health Committee on the Prohibition of Smoking in Regulated Areas (Scotland) Bill. The submission states:

"The TMA does not believe it to be appropriate or legitimate"


"raise awareness of the dangers of passive smoking and smoking; assist in changing the attitude of the public towards smoking, and encourage smokers who want to quit smoking and help ex-smokers from relapsing."

I refer members to page 65 of the committee's stage 1 report on that bill.

Philip Morris International created the slogan:

"Today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer".

We can see where that company is coming from. However, in 1999, it commissioned the Arthur D Little consultancy to study the economic impact of smoking deaths in the Czech Republic. The resulting report proudly informed the Czech Government that each smoking death provided an annual public benefit of $1,277, which would amount to $147 million each year.

How did such homicides—that is the only appropriate word—make their social contribution? Using what Arthur D Little described as

"the results of the exercise of our best professional judgement"—

that is, the judgment of the hangman—the report identified that deaths from smoking produced savings on health care expenses, housing for the elderly, social security and pensions. Even more surprising, the report's findings on the effect of smoking on employment were that

"replacing those who die early ... leads to savings in social benefits paid to the unemployed and in the costs of re-training".

Perhaps we should hand medals—posthumous medals, of course—to those selfless souls who smoke themselves to death for society's benefit. Would their families value such a medal more than the presence of the loved one who was killed by these evil peddlers of death? After all, those who make such a sacrifice are hardly volunteers for the task, when they are simply the collateral damage that is inflicted on friends in the cause of smoking company profits.

As James VI wrote in 1604—this debate ain't new—the point is that "habitum, alteram naturam". That is, habit changes nature. Four hundred years ago, James VI identified the pernicious effects of nicotine addiction, but we are fortunate to have other views that are of more social value, such as those that are expressed in the recent NHS document. The document suggests that, in 30 years' time, the smoking ban will save 406 lives a year. I believe that to be a fairly modest estimate, but I am reminded of Napoleon's demand for poplar trees along Europe's military routes to provide shade for his soldiers from the sun as they marched to war. His generals said, "But, Napoleon, it will take 30 years before the trees are high enough to deliver a benefit." He said, "Then there's no time to waste." So it is in this case. We must plan for financial impacts, positive or negative, but what must drive us is releasing our people and their families, friends and colleagues from the scourge of the addiction inflicted by the ringmasters of evil in the employ of the tobacco industry.

The NHS report identifies possible negative impacts on the viability of smaller bars. I recently visited a bar in Burghead and had some of the issues put to me forcefully. I have a few thoughts for the secondary legislation that will follow the bill, because we must protect the small village pub, which plays an important role in local societies. First, we must hold the line on exemptions—there must be none—because that would create unfair competition. However, I might have one exemption to propose later. Secondly, we must seek proactive assistance for such enterprises before implementation, to allow them to broaden their appeal, develop new markets and directly support their customers in their efforts to reduce or eliminate their dependency on tobacco. Finally, I make the entirely personal suggestion that we should consider whether transitional business rates relief could be given for a couple of years, so that bars that can demonstrate a link between reduced trading and the smoking ban can have limited compensation.

James VI said:

"Tobacco ... hath a certaine venemous facultie ... which makes it have an Antipathie against nature".

That is true.

I close with my one suggested exemption. I believe that we should consider exempting Tory social clubs from the provisions of the bill. That would make a decisive contribution to eliminating the scourge of Tories from Scotland and Scottish society, although perhaps we should protect even the Tories from themselves.


Stewart Stevenson
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fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

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