Right of Reply: Yvette Cooper

The Minister for Public Health replies to a leading article which supported the High Court judgment overturning the Government's ban on tobacco advertising
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THE INDEPENDENT's defence of tobacco advertising last week was bizarre. Championing the freedom of multi-million pound tobacco companies to promote products that are addictive killers is a cause for the libertarian not the liberal.

Evidence shows that banning tobacco advertising helps people avoid smoking, and ultimately saves lives. That is why the Government will not be put off by the opposition of the tobacco industry from implementing an advertising ban.

Cigarettes are addictive and they kill. For every 1,000 20-year-old smokers, it is estimated that one will be murdered, six will die in car crashes, 250 will die in middle age from smoking, and 250 will die in older age from smoking. People have a right to smoke, but they also have a right to a fair chance at quitting too.

Seventy per cent of smokers want to give up. But giving up an addictive habit is never easy. It is even harder when the tobacco industry is spending over pounds 100m a year on advertising to persuade smokers to pick up that next fag. Evidence shows that teenagers start smoking exactly the brands that are most heavily advertised.

Banning tobacco advertising works. A World Bank report estimates that comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotion can reduce consumption by around 7 per cent. Alongside new services to help people who want to give up smoking, including free nicotine replacement for smokers on low income, that could mean thousands of lives saved each year in Britain.

Banning tobacco advertising is a Labour manifesto commitment. We are implementing a European Directive on tobacco advertising designed to level the playing field across Europe. The majority of people in Britain want to see the ban in place. That is why we are appealing against the judgment, and we will bring in an advertising ban.