01 October 1998

HEALTH SECRETARY Frank Dobson presented the Tobacco White Paper to the Commons on 10 December and announced a ban on all poster advertising for tobacco products by next summer. The Government also aims to extend the prohibition to newspapers and magazines, whilst sponsorship of sport and the arts will be outlawed by 2003. It is estimated that an across-the-board ban could cost the advertising industry £60m annually with a loss of around 1,500 jobs. Dobson made a pointed reference to 'clever, eye-catching' advertising material designed to entice the young to smoke. 'All that will now change', he said. 'Tobacco advertising is going to end and it's going to end soon.' He conceded that the Government has a tough task ahead of it with tobacco companies pulling out all the stops to promote sales: 'That's because they have to keep recruiting new smokers to make up for the 120,000 of their own loyal customers they kill off every year.' Concern at appearing to be a 'nanny state' has deterred our fearless legislators from banning smoking in pubs and restaurants. However, the Government is to set voluntary targets for smoke-free provision in public places; these will be carefully monitored with a view to introducing compulsion if the voluntary system fails.

Just six days later, the High Court granted the UK's leading tobacco companies the right to appeal to the European Court of Justice about the forthcoming ban on tobacco advertising. British American Tobacco, Rothmans, Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco were given leave to challenge the legality of the Government's decision; the Department of Health said it was 'dis-appointed' at the ruling.