Cigarette company logos such as the Marlboro cowboy are to disappear from cricket grounds, snooker halls and motor racing circuits under plans announced yesterday to ban tobacco sponsorship of sport.
Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, declared his determination to include sport sponsorship in a forthcoming Bill to outlaw tobacco advertising after a week of uncertainty over whether it could be incorporated in the ban.
Ministers were known to be concerned about the impact on the sports affected by the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds of sponsorship. But Mr Dobson said the impact on public health was greater.
"We recognise that some sports, like some smokers, are heavily dependent on tobacco sponsorship. We will therefore give them time and help to reduce their dependency on the weed."
A White Paper setting out the Government's plans to cut smoking would be published together with a draft Bill to ban tobacco advertising. The White Paper would explore every possible lever of government, including "changes in the law, taxation, education and publicity to reduce tobacco consumption".
Mr Dobson told the Royal College of Nursing's annual conference in Harrogate, that plans to reduce smoking would be the centrepiece of the Government's commitment to improve the nation's health.
He said the Government had no wish to harm the sports affected but they had to face reality. He was less charitable to the tobacco industry which, he said, was unique in killing 120,000 of its own customers every year. "So it has to recruit 120,000 new smokers to its ranks each year."
It was unclear how international sporting events in the UK or shown on television here would be affected, but Mr Dobson said later: "My understanding is that if a car is running at the grand prix here it won't be carrying tobacco advertising."
The move surprised medical organisations who had not expected it so soon. The Cancer Research Campaign said: "This is a day we never thought we would see. We are really pleased the new government has honoured its pledge so early on.
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