Ministers blocked a proposal to force cigarette-makers to submit detailed figures to the Department of Health every three months on their marketing and research activities - including their spending on online marketing, ads in the trade press and brand development. The Government would then have published the statistics - a move that could have paved the way for intervention to further limit spending on promotion.
The plan, by Labour's former health secretary Frank Dobson, was put forward in an amendment to the Health Bill, which will outlaw point-of-sale ads and vending machines, in an extension of the 2002 law banning press and poster ads.
Dobson told the Commons that the industry had been working out how to promote cigarettes for years and had been getting "more and more creative over the decades".
He cited "massive promotional activity" in music venues attended by young people and said the Government was continually "playing catch-up with the latest scam the tobacco industry has come up with".
Gillian Merron, the health minister, said she appreciated the sentiment behind Dobson's plan but, on balance, could not accept it.
"Before the Government could implement such a measure, we would need to consider carefully the burdens placed on business and Government alike, confidentiality, proportionality and, most importantly, effectiveness," she said.