5: 1962: The End of the Beginning

Forewords Preface Prologue I II III IV V VI Epilogue Appendix Links

The committee of officials – known as GEN 763 – produced its report on 15 May 1962. It dealt in order with the recommendations made by the Royal College of Physicians. The officials were clear that it was impossible to sustain the separation between dissuading children from smoking and merely presenting adults with the facts, but they were against the sort of mass media campaign the Scottish Office had long favoured:

If the Government were to spend very large sums of public money on a mass campaign, consideration would have to be given to the restriction of advertising by the tobacco companies. A publicity campaign of this kind would cost at least £1 million a year and the tobacco companies are at present spending £11 million a year. If the Government decide that as a matter of policy action must be taken to discourage smoking, launch an extensive advertising campaign but leave tobacco advertising untouched, it would be difficult to justify to public opinion what would be bound to appear as a conflict between Government policy and the tobacco companies. To restrict tobacco advertising would require legislation . . . If the Government embarked on a competitive advertising campaign, it would be difficult to withdraw if the results did not match up to expectation . . .

If the possibility of a mass campaign were kept in reserve, however, ‘the tobacco companies might voluntarily restrict the scale and modify the content of their own publicity’. The Committee recommended therefore a campaign using the available authoritative and opinion-forming channels and free media, planned over a period initially of three years by a steering committee with representatives from all relevant departments and at a cost of about £50,000 a year exclusive of staff. They added that the BBC and ITA might be asked to co-operate.

But any publicity campaign, however well planned, is in our view unlikely to have any lasting effect by itself on smoking habits. Past investigations seem to show that smokers will not be inclined to change their habits unless they not only accept the link between smoking and lung cancer, but believe that the reality of the risk is accepted by the Government in its actions as well as in its publicity. [There was therefore a need for] other forms of action, which apart from any direct deterrent effect would reinforce the propaganda. Moreover, if the object of public education is to produce a reduction in smoking, a campaign on the dangers of smoking must be accompanied by some reduction in present propaganda in favour of smoking, either by direct Government action or by voluntary restrictions imposed by the owners of publicity media – the Press, ITV and poster firms, or by the tobacco manufacturers.

The Committee considered and rejected a tax on advertising, stated without argument: ‘It would seem unreasonable to ban tobacco advertising . . . on ITV while allowing it to continue unrestricted in the Press and on hoardings’, but noted that the ITA was convinced of the need for changes in the themes of television advertising. However, for the Government to determine a permitted level of advertising would be ‘an invidious task’, while a total ban would lead to pressure on the Government to treat in the same way liquor and other advertising of commodities ‘whose immoderate use presents a danger to health’. Voluntary measures by the advertising media and by the tobacco industry were therefore preferable to legislative action by the Government. ‘We believe that the most hopeful course of action at present would be to keep the threat of legislation in reserve, to impress on the responsible authorities the seriousness with which the Government regard the dangers of cigarette smoking, to invite their co-operation and to await results.’

On under-age sales, the Committee concluded that although the law was ‘easily evaded . . . it would not be reasonable to expect stricter control’. Penalties should be increased (the fine for a first offence was only £2), but as a political rather than a practical gesture (this was done by a backbench amendment to the Children and Young Persons Act in 1963). They rejected any advance in the minimum age for sale to 17 or 18, controls on vending machines in public places, banning sales of fewer than ten cigarettes, and (sensibly) making it an offence for a child to smoke. They considered at some length a system of justices’ licences to sell tobacco, which could be revoked if a retailer were convicted of under-age sales but said it would produce substantial administrative work and enforcement problems for very small advantages. In the end the only recommendation they made was that Customs and Excise should agree to the request from the tobacco companies to help with the circulation of a notice to all retailers protesting their concern at sales to children. (It went out about 25 June.[1])

The National Society of Non-Smokers had been pressing for controls on smoking in public places, and the Committee considered half-heartedly a number of possible restrictions. Tobacco smoke was not held to be injurious to non-smokers but restrictions ‘might help to make the public aware of the dangers of smoking’. However, enforcement of any legislation would be difficult and ‘effective action will be possible only when there has been a significant change in the public attitude to smoking.’

Similarly they saw no future for use of taxation to discourage smoking:

An increase in tobacco duty would have to be very substantial to be likely to produce a cut in consumption. The lower social classes (who tend to be the heaviest smokers) would be heavily penalised; at any rate in the initial stages, the cost of living index would rise and wage claims would be stimulated; and the large reduction in our tobacco imports would have a serious effect on the economies of some of the exporting countries, notably Rhodesia.

(This last argument of course is an objection to any step that might be effective in reducing consumption.) Moreover, the Committee continued, differentially high taxation of cigarettes compared with other tobacco would present

formidable problems of definition and administration. The differential could readily be evaded by home production of cigarettes from pipe tobacco, even if it were found practicable to prevent the 400,000 retail tobacconists from producing cigarettes in the same way for sale.

They rejected the Royal College of Physicians’ inadequately considered recommendation about putting tar and nicotine yields on packets: the College had admitted there was ‘no scientific reason behind their recommendation’ and it might encourage a false sense of security: the tobacco companies would ‘contrive to imply’ that lower yields were safer which was not known to be true. (Here the Committee in their anxiety to find justification for inaction stumbled, it would seem, on a half-truth they are unlikely to have believed at the time.)

The officials ended their report by recording their exchanges with the insurance industry and noting that the Ministry of Health would be encouraging local authorities and hospitals ‘to set up a small number of experimental anti-smoking clinics’ with a review of results in two years’ time.

The committee’s report was considered by Lord Hailsham’s Ministerial Committee on Smoking and Health on 21 May, 1 and 26 June. Broadly speaking, they accepted the officials’ recommendations. They agreed at last that ‘no attempt should be made to confine publicity directed at adults to purely factual material, if only because it would be found impracticable to distinguish between what was factual and what was persuasive.’ They also wanted it to be ‘made clear that quick results could not be expected even from a major publicity campaign and that a continuing and long-term campaign was contemplated.’

Ministers were more enthusiastic than the officials about discouraging smoking in public places – they noted that it was ‘not entirely harmless to other persons present: coughing and asthma brought on by smoke could be harmful to persons with heart complaints’ – and they thought the public would be receptive to controls introduced on public transport, in shops and other places. Such action should be positively encouraged.

They commissioned further consideration of retailer licensing as a way to control under-age sales.[2] The committee of officials responded with a paper urging the huge difficulties of definition and enforcement in any system that sought to ban offenders from selling tobacco – a ‘draconian’ penalty. Ministers bowed before the length and complexity rather than the cogency of the arguments.

They were also uneasy about rejecting increased taxation as a way of discouraging smoking. A new paper on the subject was commissioned from Anthony Barber, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who argued at length the case against switching from a system of taxation of all tobacco by weight of leaf to one that dealt separately with different products. There were policy objections to the change, which would have to be designed either ‘to effect a significant change in smoking habits’ or else ‘as a gesture’. A gesture would soon be seen through, while to affect consumption significantly a price increase of 50-100% would be required: ‘There is no product for which the demand has remained so resilient under increased taxation.’ This ‘would lead to considerable avoidance of duty . . . would be thought to be unfair’ because of the effect on the poor and on women, who could not switch to pipes or cigars, ‘would be politically unpopular’ and ‘although there may be no ‘principle of taxation’ involved, would be thought by most cigarette smokers to be a wrong use of taxation’. Ministers remained split on the issue and decided to report their differences to the Cabinet.

The Cabinet considered the Ministerial Committee’s report on 12 July and was less than enthusiastic. Ministers grudgingly approved the proposed publicity campaign (‘inappropriate to consider at the present stage action on a wider front or more drastic in character’), decided it would be ‘preferable that the Government should not intervene’ in discouraging smoking in public places, and recorded no discussion at all on any other question, including tax.[3] Notes on Board of Trade files later in the year state plainly what can easily be read between the lines of the minutes: ‘My impression,’ wrote Miss K E Boyes,

when the Cabinet considered the Ministerial Report last July, was that, with the exception of Lord Hailsham, Ministers, and especially the P.M., were pretty firmly agreed that they were not anxious to stick their fingers into this very difficult pie save to the limited extent of giving the ‘all clear’ for the health and education campaign. The Prime Minister, in particular, was reported by Mr M Cary [Cabinet Office] to have said that he did not propose to contemplate any further action, not even the statement which he had earlier more or less promised . . .’

and her boss G J MacMahon wrote to the Second Secretary, Sir Leslie Robinson:

The Cabinet were less inclined to dramatic action than either the Lord President or the Minister of Health. The general view was that it would be inappropriate to consider at the present stage action on a wider front or more drastic in character than the ‘free publicity’ campaign recommended by the Committee of Ministers. The Prime Minister was not at all keen to make a statement in Parliament and it was left that the Lord President, in consultation with the other Ministers concerned, would prepare a draft statement for his consideration. . . [4]

A draft statement was put to the Ministerial Committee on 25 July: it said the Government accepted a duty to see that the evidence was ‘set clearly before the public, particularly the young’ by means of a campaign, ‘extended over a number of years’:

It is now proposed to make the facts about smoking available to a wide range of the media of public information, including the Press, radio and television. The Government intend to provide material and notes for speakers and will distribute other publicity to Post Offices, Government Establishments, doctors, churches, youth clubs and similar organisations. All these groups will be invited to co-operate with the Departments concerned in planning the details of the campaign and in maintaining its momentum.

But Hailsham had already been briefed by Cary that ‘the Prime Minister plainly does not wish to make the statement himself’[5] and in the Ministerial Committee

discussion showed it to be the general view of the Committee that no statement should be made in Parliament on this subject before the summer recess. The Health Ministers were not under any pressure to make a statement and, on matters within their Departmental responsibility, could add little to what they had already said . . .

Hailsham wrote to the Prime Minister:

Parliamentary interest in the subject seems for the moment to have abated and a statement might well have the effect of stimulating it. This would not matter if we had a more powerful case to present, but as things stand it could be embarrassing. The announcement of our modest publicity campaign will give little satisfaction to those who believe that we ought to take stronger measures, and unfavourable comment before the campaign has even started would tend to reduce its effectiveness still further; in the light of the Cabinet’s decisions there are no other steps which we can announce or for which we can take credit.

I propose, therefore, that the machinery for the publicity campaign should be set up and that the campaign itself should be launched without any accompanying statement in Parliament of our intentions to do so. Later in the year, when the campaign has perhaps achieved some modest success, it might be useful to make a statement claiming credit for it. This can wait upon events.

Macmillan, in the words of MacMahon of the Board of Trade later in the year, ‘accepted [the recommendation] with alacrity.’ He wrote on the memorandum: ‘I feel sure that this is the best thing to do. No statement. H.M.’[6]

Hailsham and Powell nevertheless managed to maintain a campaign on smoking. In the Ministry of Health, Dr Godber began to find out how little information was available about helping people stop smoking. A paper to the Medical and Mental Health Standing Advisory Committees in May 1962 had news of two clinics in Britain – one in Salford run for the National Society of Non-Smokers by Dr J L Burn, the other at the Central Middlesex chest clinic – and of 14-day courses of interviews, injections and tablets in Sweden. ‘Immediate results are reported to be good, but the relapse rate, it is suspected, is considerable.’ The two committees met on 5 June and heard that the Maudsley Hospital was considering starting a clinic. It was proposed that the MRC might conduct research on the psychology of motivation to stop and that a conference be held to bring together all those with experience in the field. Godber wrote the next day to Sir Harold Himsworth at the MRC passing on a suggestion from Dr Dennis Hill that such research might be based on asking the doctors in the Bradford Hill/Doll study who had stopped smoking how and why they had done so. Sir Harold replied on 20 June that this appeared ‘a tall order’ and suggested lunch. Nothing appears to have come of the proposal.

A conference was held, however, on 27 July, at which the relevant doctors reported on the clinics in Salford, at the Central Middlesex and in Huddersfield (where the Medical Officer of Health reported 70-90 people attending his clinic in its first three weeks). Dr Horace Joules, making a final appearance on the files, reported on the Swedish clinics – but his report was omitted from the final version of the minutes. On 27 September, the CMO sent out a circular to local health authorities enclosing these final minutes and saying: ‘The Minister would like to see a few more clinics started up as soon as possible. Can you . . . consider the possibilities in your Region?’

Reports from clinics were then gathered and practical ideas were exchanged and circulated. A report from Salford mentioned sessions of an hour a week for about six weeks (or as long as individuals wished to come) for ‘elementary group therapy’. Aids were systematically listed: chewing or sucking edible/non-edible material; using tobacco substitutes (e.g., menthol crystals in a cigarette-holder); sipping water; lengthening the intervals between cigarettes; public declarations of intention; saving up the money that would have been spent on tobacco; avoiding the company of smokers. There was also mention of a duplicated sheet of breathing exercises. In 1963 preliminary results were reported from a Smokers’ Advisory Clinic for staff of the Ministry of Health. After seven weeks, nine out of 19 men and one of 12 women had stopped smoking and the rest had reduced their consumption by various amounts. The Board of Trade copy is annotated in inaccurate mockery: ‘30 people out of how many in the Ministry of Health? And over what period of time? And nearly half reverted to their addiction! NINE souls saved. Is this not great nonsense?’[7]

Steps were taken also to formalise the publicity campaign against smoking. A steering group was instituted to co-ordinate the campaign – but not to initiate or execute it, responsibilities which were retained by the Health departments. Dame Enid Russell-Smith wrote that it was ‘essential that there should be at least one woman member’ and proposed that the TUC be asked to nominate one because that would also bring in the ‘industrial population’ and help persuade them that it is ‘ ‘non-U’ to smoke’. In the event, however, when the Ministerial Committee was asked to decide ‘whether there should be a ‘statutory housewife’ or a T.U.C. representative’ they rejected both – and pleased the Board of Trade, who wanted no part in work against their sponsored industry, by leaving them out as well.[8] Representation included the local authority associations, the BMA and Royal College of Physicians, Ministry of Education, Central Office of Information and others.

It is clear from its minutes that the Health Education Coordinating Committee lacked any influence. Dodds wrote from the Ministry of Health to Cary, the chairman of the officials’ committee, on 18 January 1963 to say that at a meeting of the Coordinating Committee Charles Fletcher ‘had quite a lot to say to the effect that the Government were not taking the matter seriously and had done very little’ and had won agreement to quarterly reports on Government activity ‘outside its purely health education activities. . . We shall have to scratch together whatever we can. But it isn’t going to amount to a lot, and I have no hope that Dr Fletcher will be content.’ Dodds copied his letter to other government departments to warn them of the ‘pressure for energetic action’ and the likelihood of ‘public criticism’.[9]

The campaign ran into trouble with its posters. The WPN and Advertisers Review reported on 7 December that the Joint Censorship Committee of the outdoor poster industry has banned two Ministry of Health posters. One showed a cigarette with the words: ‘Cancer – cigarettes cause lung cancer’; the other showed a rolled-up pound note burning like a cigarette, with the words: ‘Smoking is an expensive way of damaging your health – cigarettes cause lung cancer’. Lord Francis-Williams raised the matter in the House of Lords. The Censorship Committee’s secretary, H H Mallatratt, wrote to the Government with a brief:

The Committee has . . . recently banned three posters issued by the Ministry of Health concerning lung cancer. These all contained the statement that ‘cigarettes cause lung cancer’. This is, in the opinion of my Committee, undue exaggeration. They appreciate that a great deal of evidence has been adduced to show there is a link between lung cancer and smoking but they are not aware that there is positive proof that cigarettes do cause lung cancer. They would be perfectly willing to display, as they have done in the past, posters stating that cigarettes may cause lung cancer, and naturally they would reconsider their recent decisions if and when positive evidence is forthcoming to substantiate the wording of the rejected posters. Here again, I must point out that no outside pressure of any kind has been brought to bear to influence my Committee in its decision.

He quoted the Committee’s terms of reference, which extended only to sites owned or controlled by members of subscribing associations. They included a power to ban posters that could ‘be regarded as holding out for the prevention, cure or relief of serious diseases which should be rightly under the care of a registered medical practitioner . . .’ The ineffable Selby-Boothroyd annotated the Board of Trade file: ‘This covers it – and sums up the objection. The public are being urged: ‘Don’t smoke and you won’t get lung cancer’. There is no proof of this.’

Lord Hailsham, who dealt with the matter in the Lords, replied trenchantly to Mallatratt. He accused his Committee of ‘knowingly prevent[ing] the Minister of Health from communicating the findings of scientific opinion to the public’, asked what qualifications his Committee had to assess scientific evidence and reach the decision that positive proof of smoking causing cancer was lacking, quoted the authorities that upheld that view and accused the Committee of a ‘grave public disservice’.[10] Mallatratt replied, refusing to back down on his claim that ‘Cigarettes cause lung cancer’ went beyond anything the Ministry or the Royal College had said: a poster saying ‘Cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer’ would by the same token be acceptable.

Hailsham, irritated, sent a temporising reply, and a meeting was arranged between representatives of the Censorship Committee and Ministry of Health officials on 30 January 1963. Dodds, the Ministry undersecretary, wrote to Mallatratt on 15 February asking them to reconsider their position, whereby ‘Cigarettes cause lung cancer’ was a gross exaggeration but ‘Cigarettes are a cause of lung cancer’ was quite acceptable. The Committee replied in mid-March, holding to its position. Hailsham wrote a further letter accusing the Committee of ‘taking responsibility on itself in a scientific matter on which every scientifically qualified body of any substance takes a contrary view’. The correspondence was then published in an answer to a question arranged in the House of Lords, with Hailsham condemning the Committee’s ‘absolutely indefensible and indeed irresponsible illogical quibbling’.[11]

However, the poster campaign continued, as did a travelling exhibition based on ‘mobile units’. An assessment of their usefulness made in 1964 shows that two vans (later three) were operated by the Central Council for Health Education and were equipped to take films and lecturers to venues round the country, mainly to schools. They were functioning from the later months of 1962. The file is made up largely of correspondence about practical matters (schedules, expense accounts, problems with the vans) but includes a few assessments of the lecturers and the film. There is a general theme that, although the film was effective – its images of cancerous lungs were particularly mentioned – the lecturers were not dynamic or expert enough.

The manner of presentation was not always convinced. A ‘couldn’t care less’ approach or a flippant phrase will undermine the entire argument . . . I do not think the team’s approach is professional enough – City Health Department, Canterbury

The talks could have been ‘put-over’ with more energy and urgency – Bradford school head

The lecturers were rather youthful and somewhat inexperienced – another Bradford school head. [12]

Enoch Powell quixotically devoted some energy during his last year as Minister to pursuing confectionery manufacturers who made sweet cigarettes for children. He sent the packaging from one such product to his undersecretary J P Dodds in October 1962 and suggested an approach to the manufacturers. Amid official scepticism, the matter was referred to Lord Newton, the Parliamentary Secretary in the House of Lords, who suggested that sweet makers would gain by a decline in smoking and that an approach was worth trying. The approach was made through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the Cocoa, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, but it lay outside their terms of reference. MAFF had found noone who saw sweet cigarettes as a serious encouragement to adult smoking but identified the main manufacturer as Barratt & Company. Officials tried to drop the idea but Newton proposed a personal approach to the chairman of Barratts and Powell agreed. Doubtingly, Dame Enid Russell-Smith asked Newton if he would be prepared to sign a letter: in the event Powell himself signed. Powell’s letter set out the background and asked ‘whether your firm would be likely to consider favourably a request to all manufacturers that, in the interest of the campaign against lung cancer, they should agree to discontinue producing sweets in these forms.’

Barratt’s chairman, George Walsh replied in detail and at some length. He admitted some doubts about introducing any new sweet cigarette with the same name as a tobacco brand (‘we hold the Trade Mark Registration ‘Gold Flake’ for Sweet Cigarettes’ and it was one of their most popular lines) but rejected Powell’s hypothesis, adding that 120 people worked on the product and that the machinery represented a capital investment of £50,000. Besides, ‘many smaller manufacturers . . . would be completely put out of business if they could not make Sweet Cigarettes.’ Powell asked for a draft for a ‘very quick reply’ but officials were at a loss what to say and asked his private office for permission to drop the matter.

Lord Newton, however, minuted Powell with his concern about the use of tobacco brand names and suggested asking them to drop these brand names. Powell provided his own draft reply, adding:

The natural conclusion of the letter would be to try to get a discussion between Mr Walsh and an official. Unless, however, this is someone in sympathy with Parliamentary Secretary (L[ords]) and myself, the game will be lost before it starts.

The draft had a gap for evidence that the ‘incidence of smoking at 12 and younger is considerable and increasing’, which led to a flurry of minutes as officials, frustrated by the lack of surveys, let alone comparable surveys at an interval of time, tried to find any such evidence. (A few days after the letter was sent, the results of a survey of ten thousand children reached the Ministry: of 1,091 junior schoolchildren, aged up to 11, fewer than half said they had never smoked, and two-thirds of smokers and ex-smokers had started by the age of eight.)

Powell’s reply made the most it could of alleged common ground and attempted again to recruit Walsh to the anti-smoking drive, ending by suggesting a meeting with Lord Newton. Four months later, prompted by Powell, Newton himself wrote to Walsh again suggesting a meeting. They had lunch on 9 July. Newton wrote thanking Walsh for listening and repeating his ‘plea that your firm will not miss opportunities of influencing fashion away from cigarettes’. He sent a minute to Powell recording that the firm had agreed to stop advertising their cigarettes (which also included Bristol and Capstan brands – both current cigarette brands at the time) in children’s papers and to ‘come to an early decision about new trade names’. However, ‘they would not get it past their shareholders’ to discontinue production.

Powell wrote on the minute: ‘The next step is to include a reference to this among other undesirable forms of influencing the young towards smoking when the opportunity next occurs, and to give the firm ample warning in advance of what one intends to say.’ But shortly afterwards Powell stepped down as Minister of Health, declining to serve under Sir Alec Douglas-Home when he took over from Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister, and the file has no trace of any such follow-up.[13]

The main development in the second half of 1962, however, to which Lord Hailsham made a significant contribution, was the initiation of the voluntary codes of practice for the control of tobacco advertising that were to last – albeit heavily criticised by tobacco control experts – for nearly forty years.

The origins of the system lie with the Independent Television Authority, which was deeply concerned about the themes used to promote cigarettes and took the view it could not delay action that it was obliged to take under the Television Act to wait for Government or other decisions. The Director-General, Sir Robert Fraser, had a meeting with representatives of the industry on 31 May, as he reported the next day to a meeting of the Authority’s Advertising Advisory Committee. He was most concerned about advertising that

went beyond the direct advertising of the merits of the product itself and beyond the placing of the brand in a natural social context, to concentrate on a particular emotion or aspiration of young people. It also seemed undesirable to exaggerate the satisfaction or bliss to be derived from smoking.

He listed five types of advertising that were undesirable – and his wording includes many phrases that found a permanent place in the Cigarette Code which lay at the core of the subsequent voluntary agreements:

(1) Advertisements that greatly over-emphasised the pleasure to be obtained from cigarettes. . .

(2) Advertisements featuring the conventional heroes of the young – parachutists, racing motorists and so on – who smoked cigarettes and could be thought to inspire emulation.

(3) Advertisements appealing to pride or general manliness, i.e. ‘a man’s choice’ or ‘the cigarette for a real smoker’.

(4) Advertisements using a fashionable social setting to support the impression that it is ‘modern’ and ‘go-ahead’ to smoke cigarettes and that smoking is part of the pleasure and excitement of ‘modern living’.

(5) Advertisements that strikingly present romantic situations and young people in love, in such a way as to link the pleasures of such situations with the pleasures of smoking.

The manufacturers had (Sir Robert reported) ‘recognised the need to move with the political situation created by the [Royal College of Physicians’] Report’ and had cited their elimination of advertising before 9 pm.

The Advertising Advisory Committee agreed that a code on the lines proposed was necessary and that the ‘difficult question of interpretation’ should be settled between the Authority and the programme companies. It received a delegation from the industry – John Partridge of Imperial, Ronald Plumley of Carreras and E J Foord of Gallaher[14] – who accepted the code in principle and agreed to replace the offending advertisements as soon as possible. They were told that it was not proposed to announce the details of the code, but the Postmaster-General would be asked to make a statement on ‘very brief and general lines’ in Parliament.[15]

On 17 June, more than two weeks later, Partridge was still defending advertising with a ‘romantic’ theme when he led a delegation of six industry representatives to meet Cary’s committee of officials. He said it appealed strongly to the middle-aged and elderly, but claimed that the 9 pm threshold would lead to an overall reduction in spending (even though two days earlier he had called on MacMahon at the Board of Trade to warn him that, whereas Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher had reduced their total television advertising after the threshold decision, Carreras had made no reduction and might even be increasing it, which might force Imperial to reconsider its policy[16]). However, he made clear that the companies were finding their situation difficult: ‘It was not at all certain that they could maintain silence in the face of the continued attack – Mr Partridge spoke moderately, but it was clear that he felt a strong sense of injustice . . .’[17]

On 20 June, the ITA chairman, Ivone Kirkpatrick, wrote to the Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins, describing the new Television Code, over which the manufacturers were being ‘very cooperative’. It had been leaked in a report that day in The Times, and while it would not be published ‘because of the difficulty of interpretation’ they were acknowledging that the newspaper report was ‘fairly near the mark’.[18]

The Ministerial Committee considered on 24 July how to deal with the manufacturers at a meeting Lord Hailsham had arranged for 31 July. The paper prepared by the officials’ committee said: ‘It might be suggested to the manufacturers that the course taken by the campaign, and future Government action, will turn to some extent on the policy adopted by the manufacturers in their own advertisements.’ Ministers might ask if the Government could assume that manufacturers would apply the television Code of Practice to advertising in other media. ‘It is unlikely that they would feel able to resist a suggestion put in this way.’ The manufacturers would want to see the Code policed: the Advertising Standards Authority ‘which has been set up within the last few days to police the British Code of Advertising Practice’ would be a suitable body. This was disputed by the Board of Trade: a brief for the meeting which criticised the Television Code (‘‘Code’ seems an unnecessarily dignified description to apply to this vague and woolly collection of criteria’) also doubted the suitability of the Advertising Standards Authority and suggested instead a sub-committee of the Tobacco Advisory Committee![19]

The Ministerial Committee agreed that the ASA was not necessarily the ‘best body to secure uniform interpretation and application of the television code in other media. The Authority had only just been set up and might not be capable of discharging so controversial a duty before it had time to establish its authority.’ Moreover, Ministers were sceptical of the objectives of the Code: ‘Changes in the content of cigarette advertisements would probably make no significant contribution toward the discouragement of smoking, but they might help to avert pressure for more drastic action which would be unwelcome both to the Government and to the manufacturers.’[20]

Hailsham met the Tobacco Advisory Committee on 31 July. He was accompanied by Bernard Braine, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health, by T Fife Clark from the Central Office of Information and by his own private secretary. Facing him were Sir Alexander Maxwell, the TAC chairman, R S W Clarke and E J Partridge, chairman and vice-chairman of Imperial Tobacco, R W S Plumley and C A C Bulpitt, managing director and assistant managing director of Carreras, E J Foord from Gallaher, Geoffrey Todd as Director of the TMSC and (a new arrival) A D McCormick of British American Tobacco.

Hailsham said he hoped that an informal discussion would prove useful. The Government accepted the Royal College of Physicians’ report, but, as believers in personal freedom, they would find it embarrassing to take compulsory measures. It was not the Government’s purpose ‘to induce any catastrophic change in smoking habits’ but there would be general criticism of both Government and industry if nothing were done. The Government welcomed the voluntary restrictions agreed for television advertising and he now invited the industry ‘to consider voluntarily imposing similar restrictions in the type of advertising for other advertising media’. The Ministry of Health would be conducting a long-term health education campaign, but they did not wish to be pressed into coercive measures or an advertising campaign in competition with the industry: such moves were, however, always possible.

The industry representatives said that ‘on the whole they thought they would be prepared to apply to advertising generally the same sort of code which was being applied on television’. There were questions of how such a code would be adjudicated, which they would consider. Lord Hailsham said that the Government would not intend to make any announcement themselves about such an extension of the Code unless pressed and then only in the most general terms.

Maxwell wrote the next day to confirm the industry’s agreement in principle:

the interpretation of these principles and their application to the other media are not without difficulty. They will, however, give further thought to these matters – in particular to the problem of how to ensure reasonable uniformity of interpretation – and will let you know their conclusions. They will also consider whether or not it would seem desirable for the industry to announce its intentions in this regard at some suitable time.

It was not until November that the industry produced a statement: Partridge called at the Central Office of Information on 8 November to give Fife Clark a copy and, on Fife Clark’s advice, Maxwell wrote the next day to Lord Hailsham, saying that since their meeting

the tobacco manufacturers have had discussions with the Code of Advertising Practice Committee, which is, of course, responsible to the Advertising Standards Authority. As a result, the C.A.P. Committee has agreed to assist the manufacturers by making their intentions concerning advertising copy known to the Copy Committee of the various advertising media, and by generally acting in an advisory capacity to the manufacturers should it be necessary . . .

Hailsham replied welcoming the arrangements, adding: ‘I should like to feel that the informal way in which we have discussed this matter is well suited to dealing with other problems of mutual interest if occasion demands.’

This may have seemed satisfactory, but the at the same time the amount of advertising was rising sharply. The subject had been raised by Bernard Braine at the meeting on 31 July: he had been told firmly that any agreement to limit advertising would fall foul of the Restrictive Trade Practices Courts and would discriminate against the smaller companies. In December a minute on the Board of Trade file records:

Expenditure on T.V. advertising of tobacco products has risen from £2.40m. in the second half of 1961 to £2.98m. in the first six months of this year. Expenditure on Press Advertising, in the same period shows an even more dramatic rise from £1.35m. to £2.23m., an increase of 70 per cent. Practically the whole of this increase is in respect of cigarettes (up 75 per cent) and cigars (up 104 per cent).[21]














1. PRO file BT 258.201 [back]

2. Cary of the Cabinet Office wrote to the Home Office reporting that ‘the Lord President with support from his colleagues, suggested that in dealing with the question of licences to retail tobacconists . . . officials had not displayed their usual resource and ingenuity . . .’ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury had reported that ‘the whole system of Excise Licences for tobacco was under review and that they might be abolished [see chapter 4]; in this event the [Ministerial] Committee thought that the appropriate penalty under Section 7 of the 1933 Act might be a straight prohibition to sell tobacco. . .’ – PRO file MH 55.2234. It was held that it was inappropriate to withdraw excise licences as a penalty for breach of the law as these were intended only for raising revenue. [back]

3. Paper C(62)110 on CAB 129.110 and minutes CC 46(62) item 2 on CAB 128.36.  [back]

4.PRO file BT 258.201 [back]

5. Cary suggested that Powell could make the statement in the Commons, Hailsham himself in the Lords – PRO file CAB 124.1673. [back]

6. PRO file BT 258.201 [back]

7. Monthly Bulletin of the Ministry of Health and Public Health Laboratory Service, 1963; 22: 110 – PRO files MH 55.2236, BT 258.202. [back]

8. The Board of Trade continued to resist continued efforts by the Ministry of Health to involve them in policing advertising and promotion practices by the industry, for example by referring public complaints to them. Their absence from dealings with the industry was noted by Imperial Tobacco, who felt deserted by their sponsor department: a file note on 13 November records:

The President [of the Board of Trade] saw Mr Clarke of Imps. during a political luncheon at Bristol last Friday . . . Mr Clarke said that he was a little disturbed to find that his dealings on smoking and health were always with the Ministry of Health or Lord Hailsham. The Board of Trade were the industry’s sponsors and he would have wished the relationship to be more in evidence on this difficult problem.

Miss Boyes minuted the reason in plain terms:

we have not felt that any useful purpose would be served by our forming a part of the audience at meetings which Lord Hailsham has held to lecture the manufacturers on their wickedness in purveying poison . . .

and Frederick Erroll wrote to Clarke on 10 December:

I write now on a personal basis to assure you that we fully appreciate your point of view on this . . . [but as we have nothing useful to contribute on scientific questions we] have not felt that we ought to play a leading part in any publicity campaign on the question of health education. But I should like to assure you that both I and my officials are fully conscious of the Board of Trade’s responsibility as Production Department for your industry and that the Board have played, and are playing, a full part in inter-Departmental discussions on questions arising out of the Report by the Royal College of Physicians. I should like to add that I hope the industry will always feel free to approach the Board of Trade . . .

– PRO file BT 258.201. [back]

9. A progress report circulated in January 1964 featured a report that the Ministry of Health stand at the Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia had featured ‘diseased and healthy lungs’ and ‘puppets’ – PRO files BT 258.201, BT 258.202. [back]

10. PRO files BT 258.1405, BT 258.201 [back]

11. PRO file CAB 124.1672 [back]

12. PRO file MH 82.208 [back]

13. PRO file MH 154.174 [back]

14. A brief prepared by the Board of Trade for a meeting with the companies by Douglas Jay, the President of the Board of Trade in the 1964 Labour Government, includes short pen pictures of Partridge, Plumley and Foord: ‘Mr E J Partridge is the newly appointed Chairman of Imperial . . . whose service he entered at the age of 14 some 40-odd years ago. He is able, ruthless, and well informed about the Board [of Trade]’s past concern with tobacco . . . It cannot be assumed with certainty that he will strictly preserve confidence on any matter touching his firm’s interests.’ E J Foord was ‘a quiet, sensible man whose opinions are usually worth notice’. Of Plumley, it said: ‘A few years ago he worked rather hard at self-advertisement, but has lately been quieter and reasonably helpful.’ – PRO file BT 258.1406. [back]

15. PRO file MH 55.2234 [back]

16. PRO files BT 258.201, BT 258.1405 [back]

17. Paper GEN 763/14 on PRO file CAB 130.185 [back]

18. PRO file BT 258.201 [back]

19. PRO file BT 258:1405[back]

20. Paper SH(62)6 and minutes SH(62)4th, on PRO file CAB 134.2158 [back]

21. PRO files BT 258.201, CAB 124.167 [back]

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