Tough new rules on point-of-sale tobacco ads came into force this week in the UK.

The restrictions cover shops, clubs and pubs, where just one ad is allowed - which cannot exceed the size of a paperback book. Nearly a third of the adspace must be devoted to a health warning.

Anyone flouting the new laws can expect a £5,000 ($9k, €7k) fine or up to five months in prison.

Earlier this year a consortium of tobacco companies took the British government's Department of Health to court in a bid to stop the regulations coming into effect.

They argued the rules would prevent them from telling consumers about the characteristics of their products so new brands could not be established. However, the protests fell on deaf ears and the tobacco lobby lost its battle last month [WAMN: 09-Nov-2004].

The DoH says the regulations are among the strictest in the world. Health Secretary John Reid adds: "This is one element of our plans to help people stop smoking and reduce the numbers of people who take up the habit."

Among other measures mooted is a ban on smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars to be introduced after the next general election, widely expected in May 2005. Smoking related diseases account for 106,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Says Jean King, director of tobacco control at charity Cancer Research UK: "We fully support a ban on all tobacco advertising and promotion because research shows it saves lives."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff