Ministers to rescue tobacco ads ban as election is delayed

Ministers will try to rush the Bill to ban tobacco advertising

through Parliament in the period of 'extra time' created by Tony Blair's

decision to delay the general election.



The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill would have failed to become

law if Blair had pressed ahead with his original plan to call an

election on 3 May. But his decision to postpone the poll until 7 June

has raised the Department of Health's hopes that the Bill will reach the

statute book by 14 May, when Parliament is expected to be dissolved.



If the plan to rescue the Bill succeeds, press and poster ads and direct

mail by tobacco companies would be outlawed about two months later.



One minister said: 'We think there is now a good chance we can get the

Bill through before the election.'



The Government will now challenge the Tories not to delay a measure

which, ministers claim, would save 3,000 lives a year.



The Bill, already approved by the Commons, was given a second reading by

the House of Lords last week and will now go into its committee stage in

the second chamber. But it will be strongly opposed by critics including

Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman, and Lord Harris of

High Cross, the chairman of the smokers' rights group Forest.



Lord Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat peer, attacked agencies working

on tobacco accounts, accusing them of 'a lack of principle and sharp

practice'. He told the Lords that the Government's measure needed to be

flexible 'in order to combat the ways in which the advertising agencies

are going to change their tactics in response to the provisions in this

Bill'.



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