February cigarette ad ban looms

Media wealth warning: cigarette advertising could be axed by the end of February.

Media wealth warning: cigarette advertising could be axed by the

end of February.



The tale of the tobacco advertising ban - which could cost media sales

jobs if it is implemented - took another turn last week when the Appeal

Court backed the Government, overturning a High Court injunction that

had blocked the proposed ban.



The Government, which initiated plans for the ban more than a year ago,

had intended the ban to be implemented across the UK on 12 December

1999, but met stiff resistance from the tobacco manufacturers.



They insist that the Government should wait for the outcome of a

European Court hearing that will decide whether the EU directive that

brought in the ban is lawful. The tobacco companies argue that rushing

through a UK ban prior to this hearing could be very damaging. ’They

believe it could cost jobs in the sales promotion and media sales

houses,’ said Andrew Brown, director general of the Advertising

Association.



Based on this argument, the tobacco manufacturers persuaded the High

Court to put an injunction on the ban.



The Government appealed against that injunction, and won its appeal last

week.



However, in another legal twist, the tobacco manufacturers have now

appealed to the House of Lords to hear the case. If the Lords refuse the

hearing, the Government will be able to implement the ban, a process

that would take around three weeks.



As the Lords will make their decision at the end of the month, a ban

could therefore be in place by the end of February.



’It is hard to say exactly what effect a February ban would have,’ said

Brown. ’Everyone has been trying to rely less on tobacco advertising,

but it still provides a lot of revenue. It is also awkward as far as ad

schedules are concerned. If you’re a newspaper you can probably continue

booking ads for now, but as a monthly magazine or a poster contractor,

it is more awkward as you are likely to be already scheduling in the ads

for March and April.’



The Lords may, however, decide to hear the appeal - especially as the

Appeal Court’s decision was not unanimous. If they do, it will be at

least April or even May before any decision is made about whether the

ban is lawful. That would mean that the actual implementation of the ban

is delayed too.



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