Tobacco advertising is being banned from newspapers and magazines in Ireland from this summer, along with sports sponsorship by cigarette companies, as the Dublin government steps up its assault on smoking.
A print ban was not due to be enforced in the republic until 2001, but a Cabinet reshuffle resulting in the appointment of Michael Martin as health minister last month has led to it being brought forward to 1 July.
In taking action, the government is running two years ahead of the EU's timetable for a Europe-wide ad ban. But Irish ministers, like their UK counterparts, are alarmed at the amount of smoking-related illness and the habit's popularity among teenage girls.
Newspaper publishers, who had already agreed to remove back-page tobacco advertising from June, are angry because imported UK newspapers and magazines will still be able to carry tobacco ads until the EU directive takes effect.
Tobacco companies, which have been banned from advertising on posters since the early 80s, spent £3.5 million in newspapers and magazines last year.
John Holohan, information manager of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland, said: This has caught a lot of media planners on the hop. And, because of an agreement already in place to cap tobacco advertising, companies will not be allowed to blow their print budgets between now and the end of June."
The ban is part of a full-scale attack on smoking by the government which is planning a national public health campaign although no budget has yet been allocated and no agency pitch called.
Meanwhile, ministers this week raised the age at which cigarettes can be bought from 16 to 18 and store promotions are being restricted in an effort to deter young people aged between 15 and 17, a third of whom are smokers.