Govt supports Lib Dem bill to ban tobacco ads

The Government has launched a new attempt to ban tobacco

advertising by throwing its weight behind a backbench bill introduced by

the Liberal Democrats.



The unusual step comes after the prospects of the Government bringing in

its own legislation in the current Parliamentary session have

receded.



Although Tony Blair had promised MPs that he would try to find time for

such a measure, the Parliamentary timetable has become crowded because

of the Government's decision to pass new anti-terrorism laws following

the 11 September attacks in America.



Normally, private members bills introduced in the House of Lords stand

little chance of becoming law. But ministers have pledged to give a

"fair wind" to a bill to outlaw all tobacco promotion brought in by the

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones. It is identical to the bill

introduced by the Government in the last Parliamentary term, which was

scuppered by the general election.



Lord Hunt, the junior health minister, said: "The fact that the bill

replicates the words of the Government bill that was introduced in the

previous Parliament means we support its aims and principles, and we

wish it well."



The bill won a second reading in the House of Lords last Friday, when

most peers who spoke gave it a warm welcome. However, opponents who

frustrated the passage of the Government's measure warned that they

would table amendments, a move that could block its progress.



Lord Clement-Jones attacked agencies with tobacco accounts, saying they

"have connived in promoting tobacco consumption, have shamelessly

exploited smoking as an aspirational pursuit in ways that inevitably

make it more attractive to children and have attempted to use their

creative talents to undermine government policy and evade

regulation".



He said that a ban would save 3,000 lives a year and would have to

extend to cover all media to prevent promotional budgets from being

shifted into other areas.



Lord Clement-Jones will come under pressure during the bill's passage to

include a "sunset clause" under which the ban would be reviewed after a

few years to see if it had reduced smoking.



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