UK MPs lash tobacco industry, lack of regulation
LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - An influential body of British politicians on Wednesday condemned the behaviour of the tobacco industry, saying the lack of regulation was lamentable.
Parliament's cross-party Health Select Committee called on the government to press ahead with an advertising ban, beef up education about the dangers of smoking and standardise packaging of all tobacco products with prominent health warnings.
``The tobacco industry has run rings around successive governments for 50 years. Regulation is still entirely inadequate,'' Labour MP David Hinchliffe, the committee's chairman, told reporters.
The committee said tobacco cost at least four million lives worldwide in 1998 and that on present trends, 250 million of the children alive today will be killed by smoking.
The MPs said cigarette packets should have clear labelling making it clear that they were ``drug-delivery'' devices, creating addiction through nicotine".
Tobacco giants like British American Tobacco, Gallaher faced a twin attack on Wednesday -- from London and Brussels.
Cigarette makers will be forced to increase the size of health warnings on packets and stop using descriptions such as ``mild'', ``lights'' and ``low tar'' under draft European Union laws to be voted on by the European Parliament.
One MEP is calling for graphic images of diseased lungs to cover nearly half the packet. The British MPs said tobacco companies should be banned from withholding information about what was in their products and said Brussels should have a far weightier unit to combat the huge resources of the industry.
``Consumers have a right to know what they are smoking, including the percentage of the product such additives form, and we believe that this information should be available on every packet,'' the report said.
ADVERTISERS ALSO UNDER FIRE
They were just as damning about the advertising industry.
``Advertising agencies have connived in promoting tobacco consumption, have shamelessly expolited smoking as an aspirational pursuit in ways which inevitably make it attractive to children, and have attempted to use their creative talents to undermine government policy and evade regulation,'' it said.
John Carlisle of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, speaking on Sky Television, said the committee was indulging in a ``bashing exercise'' against tobacco manufacturers. ``In particular, accusations against us that we're not regulated...we are highly regulated,'' he said.
The MPs called on the government to press ahead with a ban on tobacco sponsorship in glamour sports like Formula One motor racing. Early in government, Prime Minister Tony Blair exempted Formula One from a ban. It emerged that his Labour party had received a one million pound ($1.50 million) donation from the boss of the sport, Bernie Ecclestone. The money was quickly paid back.