Leaked papers reveal Tory tobacco ad battle

Labour and the Tories are set for a new clash over tobacco advertising after confidential Cabinet documents revealed that three ministers in John Major’s Government had privately backed a total ban.

Labour and the Tories are set for a new clash over tobacco

advertising after confidential Cabinet documents revealed that three

ministers in John Major’s Government had privately backed a total

ban.



The documents - leaked to the pressure group, Action on Smoking and

Health, and seen by Campaign - disclose a Cabinet battle in which

Michael Heseltine, William Waldegrave and John Gummer all demanded an

end to tobacco promotion.



But Virginia Bottomley, the then Health Secretary, resisted their calls

and won the Cabinet’s backing for her plan to tighten up the

Government’s voluntary code for the tobacco industry.



Labour MPs will now cite the leaked documents in an attempt to undermine

Tory attacks on the Blair Government’s plans to adopt the European Union

directive on outlawing tobacco ads. Regulations implementing the ban

will be put before Parliament in the next few months.



The secret papers, which will embarrass the Conservatives, show that

Heseltine argued there was ’an inconsistency’ in the Major Government’s

policy of defending tobacco advertising while trying to curb

smoking.



Heseltine, then president of the Board of Trade, told the Cabinet in a

letter: ’An outright ban instead of some half-way house of severely

constrained advertising is the credible way forward.’



He was ’surprised’ at Bottomley’s refusal to ban ads, given her

admission that further voluntary controls would ’save lives’. Heseltine

said he was persuaded by the medical evidence, acknowledged by

Bottomley, that a ban on tobacco ads would reduce smoking, improve

people’s health and avoid the ’damaging economic burdens which the

consequences of ill health place on business’.



Gummer, then Environment Secretary, told the Cabinet: ’If the Government

wants to be seen to be serious about reducing the prevalence of smoking

and improving people’s health, the right course of action would be to go

for an outright ban on tobacco advertising.’



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