The volte-face by the Conservatives in abandoning their opposition
to a tobacco ad ban may seem an empty gesture but will still come as a
huge psychological blow to Britain’s beleaguered cigarette
With the Tories unelectable for the foreseeable future, the party’s
change of heart will have little practical effect. Yet behind the anger
of tobacco lobbyists who accuse it of cowering in the face of political
correctness is the knowledge that one of its last big allies has
The defection will be all the harder for the tobacco companies to accept
because the Tories could never be accused of having been a fair weather
friend of the industry. The party has always defended manufacturers’
freedom to advertise - even if tobacco bosses have reciprocated with
generous contributions to party funds.
Now, having stuck a wet finger in the air, the party is in no doubt
which way the tide of public opinion is flowing and has left the
industry to fight its own battles.
In doing so, the Tories have acknowledged that tobacco company arguments
for being allowed to continue promoting its products are no longer
No matter that a case can be made that, with 30 per cent of UK smokers
switching brands each year, cigarette advertising is more about
increasing share of the market than growing it.
No matter also that the effects of tobacco ad bans implemented in some
other countries have proved almost impossible to isolate or
Or that advertising money may be redistibuted into price cutting, so
driving up consumption.
The fact is that tobacco advertising can never be discussed
The argument that a product which is legal to sell should be legal to
advertise pales in the face of 120,000 smoking-related deaths a
So does the industry’s contention that tobacco advertising is not
helping lure young people when figures show they are smoking in
The industry may be able to throw the occasional spanner into the wheels
of the anti-smoking juggernaut but it won’t halt it. The public
overwhelmingly favours an ad ban - and politicians ignore public opinion
at their peril.