The Government has insisted its plans to end tobacco advertising
are on course, despite an early legal victory for the British cigarette
manufacturers attempting to derail them.
The High Court pulled the rug from under ministers’ feet on Wednesday by
questioning the legal validity of the European directive on which the
proposed ban is based and referring it to the European Court of Justice
for a ruling.
But this could take two years. The Government in the meantime faces the
prospect of outlawing advertising, only to be forced to withdraw the
curbs if the European Court declares them illegal.
The legal spanner was thrown into the works by British American Tobacco,
Gallaher, Imperial and Rothmans, which between them account for 90 per
cent of the UK’s #57.7 million tobacco adspend.
The companies won the court’s backing for each of their six challenges
to the directive, which they claim is ’seriously flawed and has no legal
The news brought an immediate call for the Government to stay its
David Swan, the Tobacco Manufacturers Association’s chief executive,
said: ’The Government should not implement legislation founded on this
directive until the very serious question mark over its legal validity
has been decided by the European Court.’
Chris Ogden, the TMA’s executive director for trade and industry
affairs, predicted the Government would be left with ’massive egg on its
face’ if the directive was declared illegal, which could result in huge
amounts of debate and select committee time having to be allocated to
get alternative legislation through.
However, ministers want to press ahead with the pledges contained in the
white paper because they are confident the European Court will uphold
the directive’s validity.
The Department of Health admitted it was ’disappointed’ with the High
Court ruling. But a spokesman insisted: ’This does not affect our
ability to implement the directive or our timetable. We will go on with
Live Issue, p12.