01 January 2000

THE COURT OF APPEAL last month overruled the injunction granted to the tobacco industry in October barring the government from early implementation of the EU tobacco advertising ban. Three judges, in a two to one majority, held that it is not for the courts to interfere with the government’s decision. However, the court left the controversial injunction in situ pending the industry’s appeal to the House of Lords; and the Department of Health must continue to bide its time while the majesty of our legal process grinds its torpid course.

The appellants - Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher and Rothmans - clutched at the last judicial straw and imme-diately lodged the appeal, prolonging their legal right to persuade us into an earlier urn. The ban would otherwise have been implemented on 6 January; it will now be an indeterminate future date before the Lords decide whether to hear the case. Despite the delay, health secretary Alan Milburn hailed the appeal court’s verdict as ‘a victory for public health.’