01 August 1997

FOLLOWING SEVEN YEARS of deadlock in which the UK has consistently vetoed European action to ban tobacco advertising, Britain is poised to vote in favour of new compromises in the draft directive. The UK decision is likely to be mirrored by the Netherlands, another former objector, and it is hoped that a final vote will be taken by health ministers by December. The new proposal allows for a phased withdrawal of advertising and sponsorship but will permit the supply of materials promoting tobacco products to people who have specifically requested information by responding to personalised advertising. [This seems to let direct marketing and data-based sales promotion off the hook - demonstrating the astuteness of the tobacco barons. For over a decade tobacco companies have been amassing vast databases of known smokers over 18 years of age, against the inevitable day when an ad ban would bite.]

According to the Committee for Monitoring Agreements on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship, the tobacco industry is breaching its voluntary code at least twice a month. The Orwellian-sounding com-mittee identified thirty direct breaches during the past year - compared with fifteen the year before, suggesting that the industry is throwing caution to the winds with a total ban now seemingly certain. The breaches included 19 examples of tobacco posters sited near schools - barred voluntarily in January 1996 - and failures to update health warnings on advertisements.