The chances of a ban on tobacco advertising being introduced in the UK this year have risen dramatically, with news that the government is lending support to a private member’s bill currently being debated in the House of Lords.

The measure was introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, and proposes a ban on all (including online) tobacco ads plus restrictions on the use on non-tobacco products of features such as names and logos that are the identical or similar to those on cigarette packets and the like. However, private members’ motions have scant chance of success without the backing of ministers.

The governing Labour Party made such a ban – which it estimates will cut smoking by 2.5% – a manifesto pledge in both the 1997 and 2001 general elections. Nevertheless, a government-backed bill to introduce it – identical to Lord Clement-Jones’ motion – curiously disappeared from the legislative line-up in June [WAMN: 19-Jun-01].

However, the Department of Health – reportedly upset when its own bill was dropped – is now said to be lending its advice to Lord Clement-Jones to ensure his motion gets the support it needs. In addition, former health minister and leader of the Lords Lady Jay has given vociferous backing to the measure, with Labour’s Lord Faulkner serving as an informal whip.

Government backing gives the motion a real chance of success. Enthused Lord Clement-Jones: “This bill now has a 75% chance of going through.”

The legislation will go to final committee stage in the Lords on January 18, and is due to be passed down to the House of Commons later this month, where it is expected to be given government backing. Should it pass through the Commons without amendment, it will immediately enter the statute books.

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