OPINION: Logic plays little part in the tobacco ad ban row

It may be one small step for the anti-smoking lobby, but the decision by Guernsey to ban tobacco advertising may yet set a course for the rest of the UK to follow.

It may be one small step for the anti-smoking lobby, but the decision by

Guernsey to ban tobacco advertising may yet set a course for the rest of

the UK to follow.



It’s easy to dismiss the island’s move as nothing more than the

eccentric whim of independent local politicians with powers denied to

their mainland counterparts.



To a degree, that’s true. Guernsey’s parliament has no authority to halt

the distribution of newspapers and magazines carrying cigarette ads that

arrive from elsewhere. Meanwhile, the island’s press can only seethe.



Also, poster advertising is already tightly controlled and cigarette

advertising is largely confined to point-of-sale, so the practical

effect of the ban will be minimal.



A more effective weapon in Guernsey’s war against the island’s

alarmingly high number of child smokers will be the new power to raise

the price of cigarettes, currently 30 per cent cheaper than in the rest

of the UK. So why bother with an ad ban when a price hike would do the

job better? Because logic and reason play little part in the tobacco

debate. Guernsey’s parliament is simply reflecting the prevailing public

clamour for action.



Indeed, if the legislative powers of the UK’s local authorities matched

those of Guernsey, it’s a safe bet that local bans on tobacco

advertising would soon be in force across large areas of the UK.



Lobbyists privately concede that fighting a tobacco ad ban is a lost

cause. They don’t say so publicly lest they are seen to be deserting a

legitimate advertiser or creating a hole through which other ad

restrictions might flow.



True, the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s targeting of Labour MPs

with large numbers of tobacco-related jobs in their constituencies will

be a powerful test of the party’s resolve to outlaw cigarette promotion.

But the fact remains that public intolerance of tobacco advertising is

growing - and advertising which has no public mandate is doomed.



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