A new bill going through Parliament will ban online advertisements from UK tobacco manufacturers, but not from their worldwide competitors.
In its current form, the Tobacco Advertisers and Promotions Bill proposes to ban the promotion of tobacco through UK-based TV, radio, newspapers and poster campaigns. ISPs are also banned from selling space to cigarette advertisers.
But thanks to a loophole, overseas ISPs will be able to accept cigarette ads and international companies can promote non-UK-based brands.
This means any ads on the internet not within UK jurisdiction is not policed and could lead to a glut of e-mail-based and ISP ads for overseas brands.
Ian Bruce, MP for Wymouth and a member of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotions Bill committee, said that, with all other advertising for cigarettes and tobacco products banned, companies would move towards the internet and could give international companies an unfair advantage.
"The UK is supposed to be the best place in Europe for e-business, but this flaw costs billions of pounds of potential UK ad money to go overseas. It's a disaster for British industry," he said.