Labour told of tobacco ban error

The Government’s own advisers have issued a veiled warning that Labour ministers may have been wrong to rush ahead with plans to ban tobacco advertising.

The Government’s own advisers have issued a veiled warning that

Labour ministers may have been wrong to rush ahead with plans to ban

tobacco advertising.

The Better Regulation Task Force, set up to root out unnecessary red

tape, has urged ministers to avoid bans and to rely on self-regulation

wherever possible.

Its call may help persuade the Government to resist European Union

pressure for curbs on alcohol and children’s advertising.

But it comes too late to stop ministers implementing the EU’s ban on

tobacco promotion.

The upcoming ban is facing a legal challenge from four tobacco

manufacturers, which this week launched a move in the British courts to

thwart it.

British American Tobacco, Gallaher, Imperial and Rothmans are asking the

High Court to refer the EU’s directive to the European Court of Justice,

claiming it is illegal and violates several principles of European

treaty law.

The companies claim the EU has no power to introduce such legislation,

that it will restrict their ability to tell customers about their

products and could even prevent them providing information to adult

smokers who request it.

The task force, which reports to the Cabinet Office, said in its annual

review: ’When ministers, who are under pressure to react too quickly to

public safety concerns, seek scapegoats or introduce bans without proper

discussion, the consequence may be impractical regulation which earns

little public support in the longer term.’

The group, chaired by Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, said it

was right to give the public information about such things as safe

drinking levels and to put health warnings on cigarette packets. ’But

most people recognise that tobacco and alcohol, although dangerous

substances, cannot and should not be proscribed.’

While the state should protect vulnerable groups such as young people,

’for the rest of us, decisions affecting only ourselves should not be

subject to government regulation,’ the task force said.

The report will be seized on by Conservative MPs who have accused

ministers of rushing ahead without holding proper consultations with the

tobacco and ad industries.


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