NEWS: Labour rethinks anti-tobacco policy

The Labour Party is reviewing its stance on tobacco advertising as it finalises its policies in the run-up to the general election.

The Labour Party is reviewing its stance on tobacco advertising as it

finalises its policies in the run-up to the general election.



Although there is no sign that Labour will drop its long-standing

commitment to ban advertising, Tony Blair may have to referee an

internal dispute about the scale of the crackdown.



A key issue is whether a Labour government would outlaw sponsorship as

well as tobacco advertising. Tom Pendry, the party’s frontbench

spokesman on sport, is opposing a ban on sponsorship because it would

reduce the amount of money going into sport.



It is believed that Harriet Harman, who was Shadow Health Secretary

until July, was sympathetic to Pendry’s case. But other members of the

health team favour the prohibition of all tobacco promotion.



Chris Smith, who succeeded Harman in July, will now finalise the details

of Labour’s policy. Anti-smoking groups say he has a good record on

tobacco but are warning Labour not to water down its stance in the face

of lobbying by the tobacco and advertising industries.



Smith will have to decided whether Labour would introduce legislation or

rely on the stalled European Union directive, which would end

sponsorship and advertising.



Labour sources admit it would be ‘politically difficult’ for the party

not to support the directive, since it was introduced by the European

Commission in 1991. But backing the EU move would outlaw sponsorship of

sports such as Formula One racing, for which ITV recently secured the

pounds 12 million TV rights.



Blair reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to an ad ban this spring, but close

allies say he is aware of the potential job implications of hitting the

tobacco industry.



This week Blair was urged to adopt President Clinton’s tough measures

against cigarette companies. Paul Richards, a moderniser and Labour

parliamentary candidate, said the ad ban was ‘a first step’, but added:

‘Labour should also look at similar bans on vending machine sales and

sponsorship.’



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