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Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK

UK Politics

UK stubs out tobacco ads

New regulations will be put before MPs on Thursday

Richard Hannaford reports: "It's still not known what other sports might be exempted"
The government is bringing forward plans to ban tobacco advertising - two years before the rest of Europe.

The Health Minister, Tessa Jowell will announce on Thursday morning that all billboard, newspaper and cigarette promotions will end on 10 December this year.

Health Minister Tessa Jowell and Martin Blake of the World Snooker Association discuss the ban
The EU directive banning all forms of tobacco marketing was finally accepted at a marathon negotiating session in Brussels two years ago.

No billboard ads after July 2001

Under that agreement all billboard and cigarette promotions must cease by July 2001.

Ms Jowell said: "There is very clearly a link between tobacco advertising and rates of smoking, and very particularly the glamorisation and appeal of smoking directed specifically at young people.

"When cigarette advertising was banned in America in 1971 that was followed by a 17% reduction in consumption, very particularly among young people and the Department of Health's own economic research has shown bans on tobacco advertising are followed by a fall in consumption.

"If advertising did not work I don't think the tobacco companies would be spending something £100m a year on tobacco advertising."

Intense lobbying

John Carlisle, Tobacco Manufacturers' Association: Government infringing rights
The latest announcement will not affect the issue of tobacco sponsorship in sport, which must be phased out by the year 2003.

[ image: Snooker's world championship is exempt until 2006]
Snooker's world championship is exempt until 2006
Sports classified as having a global appeal, such as Formula One motor racing and the World Snooker Championship will be exempted from the sponsorship ban until 2006.

The government's admission it was considering giving snooker a reprieve from the tobacco sponsorship ban had led to angry demands for equal treatment.

Kevin Barron MP: Would have liked ban extended to other sports
The sport could win an additional three-year extension before it is forced to stop accepting cigarette industry backing.

The exemption for Formula One followed intense lobbying from the industry, which had threatened to move its races to the Far East.

Donation caused embarrassment

It also proved an embarrassing episode for Britain's Labour Government, when it was disclosed Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had given the party a £1m donation before the 1997 election. This was subsequently returned to him.

Defending the decision to offer some sports more time to end tobacco sponsorship, Ms Jowell said: "Throughout the development of our proposals we have looked very carefully at the way we can meet two tests: first of all deliver a ban that will work in practice, and secondly extend help and stability in the transition to those sports that are heavily dependent on tobacco sponsorship."

John Carlisle, of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, described the government's move as a "ministerial stunt".

Dr Liam Fox, Shadow Health Minister: Government plans illogical
Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox described the government's decision to offer an extended exemption to offer some sports and not others as "illogical".

He also questioned whether an advertising ban would help to cut rates of smoking in young people.

"I cannot accept the argument that a billboard sitting in the street for Marlboro tobacco say should be impacting so much more on young people.

"I want to see smoking reduced - I am one of the most anti-smoking people I know - but I think people should still be allowed to make choices for themselves, and I think that we should be awfully careful about banning advertising on things which the government is still willing to accept the money from."

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