U.K. tobacco industry braces itself for ad ban

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LONDON -- The U.K. tobacco industry is expecting legislation to ban tobacco advertising to be announced next week and to be imposed by the end of the year.

The proposal is likely to be included in the traditional Queen's speech next Wednesday, when the monarch will reveal the new Labour Government's initial legislative program.

Any new law is unlikely to face much difficulty in getting through Parliament as the Labour Government, elected May 1, has a majority of almost 180 seats.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association has been lobbying for any restrictions on tobacco advertising to be brought under its code of self-regulation, instead of in legislation. But it is unlikely now to gain access to the newly appointed Health Minister Frank Dobson, with whom it has not met, in time to halt its inclusion in this Queen's speech.

Tobacco advertising has no impact on consumption levels, says Clive Turner, executive director of industrial affairs at the TMA. He points to Norway where he claims more young people are smoking than ever before, despite no tobacco advertising for years.

The U.K. market has suffered a 40% decline in consumption over the past 20 years, he says. "An advertising ban will take away our ability to compete in a diminishing market, where a 1% shift [from one brand to another] represents $164m in revenue gained or lost."

But the Labour Party has committed itself to a tobacco ads ban in its election manifesto. "The manifesto is clear that we will ban all tobacco advertising," says a Party spokeswoman. "It is what we've said we'll do and it is what we will do."

In one of the clearest indications that proposals will be included in the first wave of legislation, Tessa Jowell, newly appointed minister of state for health (public health), announced in a speech on May 7, read in her absence to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, that "over the coming weeks the Government will be looking into ways of introducing an effective ban on tobacco advertising as part of a concerted plan of action to reduce smoking".

The ban is not expected to include a halt to sports sponsorship by tobacco marketers.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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