The Labour Party is reviewing its stance on tobacco advertising as it
finalises its policies in the run-up to the general election.
Although there is no sign that Labour will drop its long-standing
commitment to ban advertising, Tony Blair may have to referee an
internal dispute about the scale of the crackdown.
A key issue is whether a Labour government would outlaw sponsorship as
well as tobacco advertising. Tom Pendry, the party’s frontbench
spokesman on sport, is opposing a ban on sponsorship because it would
reduce the amount of money going into sport.
It is believed that Harriet Harman, who was Shadow Health Secretary
until July, was sympathetic to Pendry’s case. But other members of the
health team favour the prohibition of all tobacco promotion.
Chris Smith, who succeeded Harman in July, will now finalise the details
of Labour’s policy. Anti-smoking groups say he has a good record on
tobacco but are warning Labour not to water down its stance in the face
of lobbying by the tobacco and advertising industries.
Smith will have to decided whether Labour would introduce legislation or
rely on the stalled European Union directive, which would end
sponsorship and advertising.
Labour sources admit it would be ‘politically difficult’ for the party
not to support the directive, since it was introduced by the European
Commission in 1991. But backing the EU move would outlaw sponsorship of
sports such as Formula One racing, for which ITV recently secured the
pounds 12 million TV rights.
Blair reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to an ad ban this spring, but close
allies say he is aware of the potential job implications of hitting the
This week Blair was urged to adopt President Clinton’s tough measures
against cigarette companies. Paul Richards, a moderniser and Labour
parliamentary candidate, said the ad ban was ‘a first step’, but added:
‘Labour should also look at similar bans on vending machine sales and