U.K. tobacco ad ban will include sports sponsorship

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LONDON -- The U.K.'s new Labour government has delivered a surprise blow to the advertising and tobacco industries with the announcement that its proposed ban on tobacco advertising will go as far as outlawing sports sponsorship.

The government had been expected to back off from banning tobacco funding of sporting events, which amounts to $12m annually.

But in a move that looked as though the Department of Health had won the internal battle with the Department of Trade & Industry, Secretary of State for Health Frank Dobson said at the Royal College of Nursing Congress on May 19 that the ban would apply to sponsorship. It is unlikely to take affect for some time, however.

"We do not wish to harm these sports. We will therefore give them time and help to reduce their dependency on tobacco and replace it with sponsorship from more benign sources," he said.

Dobson went on to plea to be "spared the claim by the tobacco industry that their advertising is not designed to promote sales. The fact is that the tobacco industry, unique among all industries, kills around 120,000 of its own customers every year. So it has to recruit 120,000 new smokers to its ranks every year to make up for that year's casualties. Of course tobacco advertising is intended to promote sales."

Tony Banks, under-secretary for sport, said details of the draft bill were still to be worked out, including whether films of tobacco-funded sports events or competitors from abroad could be broadcast in the U.K. and whether tobacco-branded merchandise such as clothing or accessories would be allowed.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association repeated its claim that the industry has suffered a 40% volume decrease over the past 20 years and that marketing efforts did not boost sales but merely allowed companies to win market share from each other.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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