A ban on tobacco advertising would help to prevent 3,000 deaths and save the National Health Service more than £40m a year, Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, said yesterday.

He told MPs there was "crystal clear" evidence that a ban would help to save lives.

Opening the second reading of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, Mr Milburn said: "Today's teenager is tomorrow's regular smoker and regular customer. Advertising works, smoking kills. Today we can begin to break that link.

"This Bill will protect children, reduce smoking and so save lives."

The Bill, introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Lord Clement Jones, a Liberal Democrat, is a duplicate of government legislation lost when the general election was called last year.

Mr Milburn said: "Every year the tobacco industry has to replace the 120,000 customers killed through consuming its products. We should be clear about this. Tobacco advertising and sponsorship act as a recruiting sergeant for children and young teenagers."

Frank Dobson, a Labour MP and former Secretary of State for Health, said the tobacco industry was like a predator as it had to kill others in order to survive.

He said: "We either today... support the tobacco merchants of death or we support the people that they would otherwise kill."

Dr Liam Fox, the Opposition's health spokesman, said the Tories would oppose the Bill as it was "a diversion from the real job of tackling smuggling and making tobacco more expensive".

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman said the Tories' position was "shocking". He said: "They will have to defend their policy to the parents and the children of people who will die."

David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the Health Select Committee, said: "Why has it taken so long to get round to this very obvious and sensible measure?"