The current parliamentary session will see rush government measures to ban tobacco advertising – an election manifesto promise – following the collapse earlier this year of an EU attempt to impose a pan-European embargo.

The unilateral UK move will emulate the timetable of the failed EU directive, banning billboard ads for tobacco by July 2001. Newspaper and magazine bans will follow in 2002 and sports sponsorship by 2002.

The single exemption to the latter is Formula One motor-racing, deemed by the government to be a “world sport” and therefore – by an unexplained process of logic – able to continue receiving massive tobacco sponsorship for a further four years. F1’s controversial chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was a generous pre-election donor to Labour Party funds with a gift of £1,000,000.

Public health minister Yvette Cooper says the ban will contribute substantially to the government’s target of reducing smoking from the present level of 28% of adults to 26% by 2005, and 24% by 2010.

The legislation was welcomed by anti-smoking campaigners. "It is the beginning of the end for the tobacco industry in Britain. The government has stood firm and listened to public opinion rather than the persistent bleatings of the tobacco manufacturers," said Cancer Research Campaign director-general, Professor Gordon McVie.

According to the Department of Health, smoking kills 120,000 people a year in the UK and is the biggest cause of coronary heart disease.

News source: Financial Times