Secretary of state for health Alan Milburn told the House of Commons Friday that the government is to allocate parliamentary time for a bill that will ban tobacco advertising ‘within months’.

The move came speedily by British government standards – a mere forty years after the Royal College of Physicians first urged a ban. Condemning manufacturers for promoting a “deadly habit”, secretary Milburn picked up and ran with the ball – kicked into play a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones and approved last Thursday by the House of Lords.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill revives legislation which ran out of Commons' time due to last year’s general election. It will outlaw sponsorship by tobacco brands and companies of sporting events; also billboard and print advertising, and marketing promotions. In addition, limitations will be imposed on the retail display of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

However, prime minister Blair’s generous dispensation to Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, a former donor to the Labour Party, will allow F1 teams to retain their tobacco sponsorship until 2006.

Meanwhile, Simon Clark, director of Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco), claimed the upcoming bill could transgress the European Convention on Human Rights: “A ban on tobacco advertising is an unwarranted attack on the rights of adult consumers to receive information about a legitimate consumer product,” he protested.

Commented the Royal College of Surgeons: “In the long term the banning of tobacco advertising could mean a significant reduction in the number of people dying from smoking-related diseases … currently 120,000 people every year, making it our single biggest killer.”

Data sourced from: The Independent (UK); additional content by WARC staff