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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK

UK Politics

Anger at tobacco ban 'delay'

Snooker is being classified as a sport on a "global scale"

The government is embroiled in a fresh row over tobacco and sponsorship in sport.

The BBC's Emma Udwin: "Labour came to power promising to end tobacco advertising"
Anti-smoking campaigners have reacted angrily to newspaper reports that snooker is to win a delay on a tobacco advertising ban.

Department of Health proposals are said to classify snooker alongside Formula One motor racing as being run on a ''global scale''.

That would give it until 2006 to find new financial backers - three years longer than other sports which have until 2003 to phase out tobacco sponsorship under EU rules.

[ image: David Hinchliffe says the move undermines efforts to end tobacco advertising]
David Hinchliffe says the move undermines efforts to end tobacco advertising
The proposals have been condemned by health campaigners and Labour MP David Hinchliffe, who is the chairman of the influential Commons Health Committee.

Labour found itself at the centre of huge row when it tried to exempt Formula One from the advertising ban. It was revealed that one of the sport's leading players had donated £1m to the party.

The party was told by Lord Neill, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, to give the cash back to Bernie Ecclestone.

Clive Bates, of anti-smoking group Ash, reacted with anger and disbelief to snooker's apparent reprieve.

"No one could seriously claim that snooker is a global sport, the vast majority of the top players are UK or Irish and the World Championship is always held in Sheffield," he said.

David Hinchliffe said: "Snooker is a sport that features frequently in televised coverage and therefore the tobacco people will realise they have got direct television advertising of their products.

[ image: Anti-smoking groups have reacted with fury to the reported proposal]
Anti-smoking groups have reacted with fury to the reported proposal
"To me this really does undermine the commendable efforts that have been made in other respects by the government to end the promotion of tobacco through sport."

But the reports were welcomed by Tory peer Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, who is the president of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

"It certainly made no sense to us that one sport should have this privilege and the rest of us should be ignored," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme.

"I suppose the government has come to realise that snooker in particular - and possibly other sports as well - will have to be given the same playing field as the rest."

A health department spokeswoman insisted that the government was still committed to honouring a manifesto pledge to ending tobacco advertising - but said no final decisions had been made.

"The EU agreed that sports operating on a global scale would have an extra three years to introduce the tobacco advertising ban so their sports would not be jeopardised," she said.

"This is nothing new."

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