Tobacco companies have initiated UK court action against the government's restrictions on cigarette advertising at the point of sale.

British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher, Philip Morris, Societe Nationale D'Exploitation Industrielle des Tabacs et Allumettes and a vending machine operator argue that the regulations are 'too blunt an instrument' and interfere with commercial freedom of speech.

They argue they are prevented from telling consumers about the characteristics of their products, thus preventing new brands being established.

Cigarette makers say permitted POS locations are too restricted in space and size and the rules fail to distinguish between different outlets: for example a local store where children could see ads, and a nightclub where they would be seen by adults only.

British health secretary John Reid, who introduced the legislation in 2002, is opposing the legal challenge.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff