01 November 1999

THE GOVERNMENT'S attempt to ban tobacco advertising by Christmas suffered a major setback following a high court decision to uphold objections by several leading tobacco companies. Backed by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association
, Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher, Rothmans and British American Tobacco won an injunction preventing the European Tobacco Advertising Directive from being implemented in the UK until the European Court of Justice has ruled on its validity.

Granting the injunction, Mr Justice Turner said it was ‘strongly arguable’ that the companies might win their case. If the ban was implemented, and the European Court then ruled that the directive was unlawful, the government could be held liable for irrecoverable losses to the tobacco companies, including job losses. The tobacco industry argues that a ban on tobacco advertising is not urgent as advertising has no effect on peo-ple's consumption of tobacco, only on their choice of brand.

Health secretary Alan Milburn said he was appalled at the tobacco companies' actions. He said: ‘The tobacco industry will stop at nothing to try to undermine the advertising ban which will make our nation healthier. Banning advertising is a vital step towards cutting cancer and heart disease.’ The Department of Health has been given leave to appeal against the court’s decision.