Court delays tobacco ad ban - even though Milburn wins case

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT has won the latest round in its battle with the cigarette industry to impose a ban on tobacco advertising. The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled two-to-one in favour of the Government but upheld an injunction granted to the tobacco firms in anticipation of an appeal to the House of Lords.

Health ministers had hoped their court victory would allow its ban to come into force on 6 January, but must wait for a decision by the Lords on whether to give the go-ahead for a further appeal. This isn't expected until well into the new year.

The Court of Appeal said the judiciary could not interfere with a government decision on the implementation of a manifesto pledge. Labour has said it is committed to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the interests of public health.

Plans to start enforcing the ban under a European directive were outlawed in October when a High Court judge granted an injunction to Imperial, Gallaher, Rothmans UK and British American Tobacco, preventing its introduction pending a ruling by the European Court of Justice in about a year's time on the validity of the directive.

Yesterday John Carlisle, of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA), said after the hearing: "We live to fight another day, having lost on a penalty shoot-out. We are obviously pleased the decision made by the court wasn't unanimous, and the strength of our case in Europe has been re-emphasised by the three judges."

The TMA said government was guilty of rushing the policy through unnecessarily without waiting for the European court to make its judgment. At the centre of the argument, said Mr Carlisle, was the freedom to "advertise one's products".

But Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking group Ash, said: "I am glad the Court of Appeal sided with the Government but disappointed there will be more delay." He said the Government's figures show 3,000 people a year lose their lives due to tobacco advertising.

He said: "By their delaying tactics, the tobacco companies are costing eight lives a day. [They want to fight this every inch of the way - [as] they need advertising to recruit children to smoking. Without advertising they will wither and die."

Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, said evidence showed tobacco ad bans cut smoking deaths and diseases.