The Conservative Party is to review its opposition to a UK ban on
tobacco advertising, as European health ministers prepare to consider a
set of compromise proposals that will water down a proposed EU-wide
In a surprise move, senior Tories said during this week’s party
conference in Blackpool that they would judge the Labour Government’s
proposals for the UK ’on their merits’. One member of William Hague’s
Shadow Cabinet said: ’It is not automatic that we would oppose the
Government. There are some people who believe we should think again on
this.’ A final decision will be taken when the Government publishes its
White Paper, due by the end of this year.
Some Tories believe that an ad ban alone might be supported but that
Labour’s plans to restrict sponsorship and direct mail may tip the
balance in favour of opposing the legislation.
The mood of the conference was in line with the latest EU proposals,
which involve exempting tobacco advertising in trade journals from a
ban, along with tobacco price lists and mailshots sent by tobacco
manufacturers to known smokers.
The compromise proposals will be presented to health ministers at their
meeting in December by Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, in an
attempt to ensure that any ban is as watertight as possible.
They are also a reaction to fears that ending tobacco sponsorship would
have a devastating effect on many European sporting events, including
Formula One motor racing, and would allow for the completion of many
existing long-term sponsorship contracts.
Nevertheless, there is no guarantee a temporary reprieve on sports
sponsorship will be accepted by the UK health minister, Tessa Jowell.
’She is playing hardball,’ a UK advertising lobbyist said. ’There’s no
indication the Government will accept any of these amendments.’