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.
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
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
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
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk