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Monday, 14 December, 1998, 11:11 GMT
Controversial ban among tobacco controls
Formula One
Formula One is exempt until 2006
The long-awaited White Paper on tobacco - titled simply Smoking Kills - is a long-standing Labour commitment.

Both the 1992 and 1997 Labour manifestos stated a ban on tobacco advertising would be introduced if the party came to power.

The White Paper goes further, introducing the controversial ban on advertising and sponsorship.

Sports like darts will lose out
It also includes proposals to ban smoking in certain places as well as health promotion.

The White Paper comes six months after the passing of the European Commission directive requiring a total ban on advertising and sponsorship within the EU.

Cinema and billboard advertising will be banned after three years. Newspaper advertisements will end a year later and most sponsorship a year after that.

Tobacco sponsorship for most sports and arts events and indirect advertising must end by 2003. World events, such as Formula One, must end sponsorship by 2006.

The controversial exemption for Formula One and other major international events was won by the UK when the draft law was passed by a slim majority of health ministers last December.

The ban is welcomed by anti-smoking groups
Controversy surrounding the exemption was quickly followed by revelations Tony Blair had met a deputation from Formula One, including chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, before the decision.

It also emerged Mr Ecclestone had made a pre-election donation to the Labour Party of £1m, which was returned along with a second donation to avoid accusations they had prompted a change in policy.

Further controversy surrounded the revelation that Tessa Jowell¿s husband, David Mills, was a former director of Benetton, a chief racing sponsor.

The ban is welcomed by anti-smoking groups.

An Action on Smoking and Health spokeswoman said: "We're very supportive of the directive - it's the strongest policy shift in tobacco controls for a long time.

"But this is very important as tobacco companies do target children to replace those people who are dying every day.

"Advertising is very successful, the brands children buy are the one they know. But we are not expecting this to work by itself, it is one part of a package of measures."

Although it is seen as triumph over the tobacco giants, the ban will take longer to phase in than had been hoped.

The Benson and Hedges Trophy has been banned
It also included some concessions, including not banning tobacco adverts in magazines circulated in the EU but originating elsewhere.

In September, four of the largest UK manufacturers said they would be asking for the EU directive to be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

They believe it is illegal, violating several principles of European law and infringing the European Convention on Human Rights.

Tobacco companies also argue it is not clear banning advertising will curb smoking.

There have been other threats to the ban, from member states.

When Belgium's national assembly introduced a tobacco sponsorship ban last year, the Formula One Association threatened to remove the Belgian Grand Prix.

Ultimately, the Belgian authorities agreed the ban would not apply at the Spa circuit.

Anti-smoking campaigners may also be dismayed by the contents of other measures in the paper.

Many sports which rely on tobacco sponsorship are already struggling to find replacement sponsors.

Robert Holmes, spokesman for the British Darts Organisation, believes the task force the government established to help sports find new advertisements is failing to succeed.

Darts will lose around £500,000 a year unless a new sponsor can be found.

Mr Holmes told BBC News Online: "It is going to become very difficult for us to keep the sport alive, this affects everyone involved from the grassroots up.

"No-one can deny there are health implications with tobacco products but it is a legally sold product which brings in billions in tax.

"We've been with Imperial Tobacco for 20 years and they have really allowed us to build the sport up.

"The government's task force wrote to 500 companies to see if they were interested in sponsoring a sport and 18 replied saying they might be, but none were interested in supporting us."

Last month, representatives from sports such as darts, snooker, clay pigeon shooting and showjumping, met with the Conservative party to stress their plight.

Mr Holmes said: "This wouldn't have happened with the Tories.

"If they were in power we wouldn't have gone down this route."

The last government's attempts to reduce the death rate from smoking were contained in the 1992 white paper The Health of the Nation.

It set a national target for England to reduce the death rate from lung cancer in people under the age of 75 by at least 30% in men and at least 15% in women by 2010.

With only two years to go until some of the targets are to be achieved, it was widely acknowledged that many - if not most - would not be met.

See also:

25 Nov 98 | UK Politics
10 Dec 98 | Health
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