New U.K. government unlikely to affect tobacco ad regs

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LONDON -- The newly-elected Labour government is unlikely to give the go-ahead to a Europe-wide ban on tobacco advertising by removing the U.K.'s blocking vote on a European Union directive within the next 12 months, the U.K.'s Advertising Association believes. The prediction is based on discussions with Labour spokespeople over the past year.

The Labour Party has said it would impose a ban on tobacco advertising in the U.K. and is expected to follow that through with an endorsement of the EU's Tobacco Advertising Directive. Its approval would collapse the current blocking majority made up of Germany and Holland, along with the U.K.

But Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director-general of the AA, believes that the new government will propose a Bill in the U.K. for consideration in Parliament this fall, but will hold back on giving the green light to Europe until more work is done to update the 1991 European directive. He also believes that Labour will want to clarify the extent of the ban, which currently covers all communication. The party has indicated in recent months that a U.K. ban will not go as far as sports sponsorship.

Labour's Nigel Griffiths, the former shadow consumer affairs minister, and health spokesman Kevin Barron have both independently told the AA that a Labour government would impose an advertising ban on tobacco in the U.K. but would only "work towards a European ban," says Stanbrook. The next bi-annual meeting of the EU's health council is set for mid-June.

The AA has declared itself "quite pleased" with the result of the U.K. election. Stanbrook is confident that the industry has convinced the Labour Party of the benefits of self-regulation as against legislation.

Still to be decided, however, is the new consumer affairs minister, under whose remit advertising and media will sit. Nigel Griffiths, who held the shadow post, would be a popular choice with the media industry, Stanbrook says. "He definitely knows what he's talking about."

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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