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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK


Fury at tobacco ban delay

Tobacco advertising will be driven off the track soon

Anti-smoking campaigners are furious after the government revealed delays to a planned ban on tobacco advertising.

A total ban had been due to begin on 10 December.

Instead, it will be phased in over three years.

[ image: Anti-smoking campaigners believe the ban will help save lives]
Anti-smoking campaigners believe the ban will help save lives
The general embargo on newspaper, magazine and poster adverts is still expected to be enforced on 10 December.

But outlets such as retailers and promotional packs will be allowed to remain for longer.

Anti-smoking group Ash said the delay was "pointless appeasement" of the tobacco industry.

And the Cancer Research Campaign said it was "extremely disappointed".

The government's announcement came on the day the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA) was launching a challenge in the High Court to the entire ban.

Tobacco companies asked for a suspension of all the advertising restrictions until the European Court had ruled on the validity of the initial European Directive introducing the ban.

They argued the directive was "highly dubious and extremely doubtful".

Jonathan Sumption QC, representing cigarette giants British American Tobacco, Gallaher Group and Imperial Tobacco, said there would be "serious infringements" of the legal rights of tobacco companies if the directive was implemented in the UK.

'Help for corner shops'

The delays in introducing a total advertising ban were revealed by outgoing Health Secretary Frank Dobson. He said it was a "sensible compromise" between the health benefits of the ban and the "legitimate concerns" of the tobacco industry.

"The transitional arrangements prove that we have listened to genuine concerns," he said.

[ image: Cigarette manufacturers say a ban is illegal]
Cigarette manufacturers say a ban is illegal
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The actual ban on advertising will still come in from December 10 but these changes help corner shops and other retailers to comply."

But Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "Frankly, I am extremely disappointed. I do not understand why they have done this and I cannot believe the TMA had any possible argument to put forward for a delay that could carry any weight.

"The ban on advertising was one of Labour's pillars of policy and I simply do not understand why they are doing this."

Ash director Clive Bates said: "I don't know why the government is bending over backwards to appease the tobacco industry with these concessions.

"Tobacco advertisers have been on notice since Labour published its manifesto in 1997 and have already had more than enough transitional time."

But he added: "We should still keep in mind and applaud the approaching end of tobacco advertising."

A TMA spokesman said: "The latest government concessions change nothing.

"We are still proceeding with our court case because we believe that they are acting illegally and should await the European court judgement before implementing any restrictions."

Under the new phases of the ban, retailers must ensure their outlets comply by March next year and direct marketing campaigns and in-pack promotional schemes must end by June.

Tobacco advertising inside in-flight magazines on flights operated by non-EU airlines and in EU publications sold in the UK must end by July 2002.

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