The Government is planning a second retreat over plans to outlaw
tobacco promotion by ditching proposals to curb direct marketing,
instead relying on a stiffer voluntary code.
The move follows this week’s announcement that Formula One would be
exempt from the ban on tobacco sponsorship after ministers admitted the
sport could move to Eastern Europe or Asia. New voluntary rules will
restrict ads at race-tracks, on cars and drivers’ clothes.
The climb-down over below-the-line activity stems from the Government’s
decision to implement a ban on tobacco ads through a long-delayed EU
directive rather than primary legislation.
Direct marketing is expected to escape a blanket ban when EU health
ministers discuss the proposals next month because there is no agreement
between member states on the issue. Instead, the problem will be left
for individual national governments to deal with.
The upside for ministers is that if an agreement is reached in Europe,
the directive could be approved by a House of Commons committee after a
short debate, without the Government having to bring in a bill. The
faster procedure could result in outdoor, cinema and print tobacco ads
being banned in the UK from early 1999, while legislation would take
several more months to take effect.
Talks will take place between the Department of Health and the Tobacco
Manufacturers’ Association to strengthen the voluntary agreement that
regulates direct mailshots, gift vouchers and other promotions.
Ministers are likely to demand more safeguards to ensure children are
While welcoming the Formula One decision, the TMA called for other
sports to be exempt and attacked the Government’s decision to opt for a
fast-track legislative route through the EU.
’Parliament would have no opportunity of discussing the subject, the
views of interested parties would be suppressed and the fine words of
promised consultation from government ministers would count for
nothing,’ David Swan, the TMA’s chief executive, said.
Tessa Jowell, the public health minister, confirmed the Government’s
decision to rely on the EU route on Wednesday.