EDITORIAL: Oppose the next ad ban, as this one is inevitable

By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 25 June 1999 12:00AM

Like convicts on Death Row, tobacco advertisers have long known that they were living on borrowed time with slim hopes of a reprieve. Last week, the executioner - in the portly shape of Frank Dobson, the health secretary - arrived to deliver the coup de grace with a ban on poster and press advertising that will come into force more than two years before EU laws require it.

Like convicts on Death Row, tobacco advertisers have long known

that they were living on borrowed time with slim hopes of a reprieve.

Last week, the executioner - in the portly shape of Frank Dobson, the

health secretary - arrived to deliver the coup de grace with a ban on

poster and press advertising that will come into force more than two

years before EU laws require it.



The tobacco and ad industries knew this day would eventually dawn.

Sooner or later Britain was bound to elect a Labour administration for

which the outlawing of cigarette advertising has long been a

non-negotiable article of faith.



Small wonder that rational arguments get drowned by emotional ones

whenever tobacco advertising is debated. No matter that by banning

promotion of a product that is legally produced and sold the Government

undermines its support for commercial free speech.



No matter that a ban could provoke a price war that may boost cigarette

consumption rather than reduce it or that the Government may be shipping

the problem to the Third World as tobacco manufacturers concentrate on

markets where restrictions barely exist.



The momentum for a clampdown has bulldozed aside such arguments. Not

surprising, perhaps, since the ad industry, like the public at large,

has many advocates for a ban, making a united front against one

difficult to build.



It’s time to stage a tactical withdrawal from a battleground on which

the industry was never a comfortable combatant. Agencies and media

owners have seen the writing on the wall for some time and can have no

complaints about not having had time to budget for departing

revenue.



There are more important fights ahead which the industry must win and

has the collective will to do so.


Unless Sweden’s bid for a Europe-wide ban on TV advertising to children

is halted, the way is open for a full-scale assault on the right to

advertise.



After toys, what next? Alcohol probably. After that, it could be open

season on anything that might tempt people to spend money they don’t

have. If that day comes, a tobacco ad ban will be the least of anybody’s

worries.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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