In a major policy U-turn, the Conservative Party has said it will
outlaw tobacco advertising if legal action delays Labour’s plans for a
ban until after the next general election.
The move signals that the Tories have turned their backs on the tobacco
industry despite their traditionally close relationship. In the past,
tobacco companies have given money to the party and handed over
prominent poster sites at some general elections.
The Opposition’s surprise support for a ban is part of William Hague’s
efforts to modernise Tory policy and has been forced through by Liam
Fox, a former GP who became Shadow health secretary this summer.
Fox believes there is now overwhelming evidence that advertising does
encourage people to smoke - a claim which is still denied by the tobacco
Under the new policy, the Tories will not oppose the Government’s moves
to implement a ban. If recent legal setbacks mean the ban is delayed
until the next election, an incoming Tory government would seek to
’If Labour does not manage to get its ban, we will do it,’ a Tory source
said. ’Our policy is based on the evidence.’
The Tory U-turn has angered the tobacco industry and Forest, the group
that defends the freedom of smokers, accused Fox of trying to ’suck up’
to the ’politically correct health lobby’. It said the new policy
’stinks’ and that the Tories wanted to ’out-nanny Nanny Blair’.
The Government’s plans to end press and poster advertising on 10
December were thrown into disarray last month when the High Court ruled
that it had jumped the gun ahead of a challenge in the European Court to
the EU directive banning tobacco promotion.
This week ministers launched an appeal against the High Court’s
Christopher Vajda QC, representing the Government, told the Court of
Appeal: ’The policy of prohibiting tobacco advertising was in the
Government’s election manifesto. The Government believes it is in the
interests of public health.’
Meanwhile, tobacco companies are steeling themselves for a possible
further downturn in sales following the start of the most ambitious
anti-smoking campaign ever mounted by the Government and backed by
pounds 50 million over the next three years.
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO was assigned the task last month and is working
on plans to help cut the 120,000 smoking-related deaths each year.
Under-16s who smoke will be among the key targets of the initiative.