AA hits out at Govt's plans for tax on alcohol ads

The advertising industry has pledged to fight a plan by the Government to impose a levy on ad campaigns for alcohol as part of a drive to stamp out binge drinking.

In a document setting out ideas for Labour's general election manifesto launched by Tony Blair, the party asked: "Is there a case for a levy on alcohol advertising, with the proceeds ploughed back into advertising campaigns promoting responsible drinking by young people?"

The idea of a levy on alcohol ads was mooted by Labour while the party was in opposition, but dropped by Blair when he won power in 1997.

The drinks industry spends an estimated £200 million a year on ads, so a 1 per cent levy would raise only £2 million.

The director-general of the Advertising Association, Andrew Brown, described the proposal as "ridiculous" and said: "The ad industry is not prepared to be singled out as the culprit. We will work constructively to tackle what we acknowledge is a social problem, but taxing legitimate competition between brands is not the way to deal with it."

The ad industry is now battling the Government on two fronts. On Monday 1 November, the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, confirmed a report in Campaign (3 October) that ministers want to see tougher controls on TV ads for "junk food" because of fears they encourage unhealthy diets among children.

She told The Guardian she wanted Ofcom to revise the "inadequate code" on advertising and did not rule out a ban. A new code is expected to be introduced by next summer. The Labour document asked: "Should the advertising of unhealthy food targeted at children be banned or further restricted?"