MPs attack agencies for flouting tobacco's under-18s agreement

MPs attacked agencies working on tobacco accounts as moves to ban tobacco advertising cleared its crucial House of Commons hurdle this week.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotions Bill, already passed by the Lords after being introduced by the Liberal Democrats, was given a second reading in the Commons. MPs voted 349 to 130 to reject a Tory opposition move to block the measure.

The Bill will now be examined by a committee of MPs and ministers hope it will become law this summer, with the ban being implemented in the autumn, forcing tobacco companies to end poster, press and internet ads as well as direct marketing.

The health minister, Yvette Cooper, praised the influential work of the Commons Health Select Committee for uncovering evidence that agencies were flouting the tobacco industry's voluntary agreement by targeting the under-18s.

"Those who have most to gain (from smoking) are those who share in the profits of the tobacco industry,

she said.

The Labour MP Kevin Barron seized on an admission to the select committee by Paul Bainsfair, the chairman of TBWA/Europe, that some tobacco ads might appeal to 15-year-olds.

The Tory health spokesman Liam Fox, who backed a ban two years ago, performed a U-turn by opposing the Bill on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to ensure it would cut smoking. The Tories called for a "sunset clause

under which the ban would be lifted if it was not working.