City of Durham MP Mary Foy was unsuccessful in her attempt to amend the Health and Care Bill in Parliament last week. Her clause, which was voted down by the Government’s MPs, would give powers to the Health Secretary to prohibit branding on e-cigarette packaging which appeals to children.
The vote on what is known as Clause 4, was held on the 22nd November. The amendment was one of many tabled as a method of holding the Government to account for its target to be ‘smoke free’ by 2030. It received some cross-party support but was outvoted by Conservative MPs.
Conservative MP, Bob Blackman, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health continued his support of Foy in her efforts but was joined by only two fellow Tories when it came to the vote. Labour and several minority parties backed the amendment.
Foy is the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, having previously chaired the Gateshead Tobacco Control Alliance. She made the case, arguing that “The Government and the Opposition both support a smoke-free 2030, but without meaningful action, that ambition will be missed by seven years—or by double that number of years, in the case of the poorest in society”.
Foy’s Conservative ally on this issue, Blackman, spoke in support of the clauses that she tabled: “These comprehensive proposals are complementary and can be picked up by the Government.”
Clause 4, which reads as follows “The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about the retail packaging and labelling of electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine products including requirements for health warnings and prohibition of branding elements attractive to children”, was debated.
Edward Argar, the Minister of State for Health at the Department of Health and Social Care, commented “While we strongly support measures to protect young people further from cigarettes, we believe the current regime remains appropriate and has the powers in place within it to make changes where required,” and as a result, did not support Foy’s amendment.
Argar also discussed Foy’s amendment to print health warnings on individual cigarettes and responded: “To date, no country has introduced such a measure, so there is currently limited evidence of its impact in supporting smokers to quit.” Foy proceeded to withdraw this amendment. In addition, the clause regarding raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 was also not voted on during Monday’s debate. Foy had previously voiced her support for this amendment.
Foy posted on Twitter in the hour after the vote took place “Today I tried to amend the Health and Care Bill to prevent nicotine products from being marketed at children, through branding with sweet names, garish colours, and cartoon characters. Incredibly, the Government whipped their MPs to vote it down. This shouldn’t be political.”
Image: Mary Kelly Foy