- People working in the advertising or tobacco industries who try to get round the Government's ban on tobacco promotion will be liable to a fine of £5,000 and three months' imprisonment.
The tough penalties are included in the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, which will have its second reading in the Commons in January as ministers try to rush a ban on press and poster ads into law before the general election expected next May.
The Bill is broadly in line with the stalled European Union directive on tobacco promotion, which was blocked by the European Court of Justice.
The Government's measure says that anyone who publishes, prints, devises or distributes a tobacco ad in the United Kingdom, or causes one to be printed, will be guilty of an offence. The maximum penalty will be a fine of up to £5,000 or three months in jail or both. Anyone obstructing an enforcement officer investigating a breach of the law would face a fine of up to £3,000.
The small print of the Government's Bill suggests that tobacco companies will be able to continue direct marketing activities, as it will not be an offence if an ad is included in a reply to a request for information about a tobacco products. Adult smokers already "opt in" before receiving direct mail.
But tobacco firms face a crackdown on brand-stretching, one of the ways they hope to get round the proposed ban. The Bill will give the Health Secretary Alan Milburn the power to bring in regulations to outlaw the use of any name, emblem or feature which is the same or similar to that used in a tobacco product.
Although ads on the Internet will be outlawed, the ban will not apply to foreign-based websites that can be accessed in the United Kingdom. Mr Milburn will have the power to introduce new rules to take account of "developments in technology relating to publishing or distributing by electronic means."