Tories face shaming on tobacco links

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HEALTH MINISTERS are prepared to use a Labour Party dossier on the Tories' links with the tobacco industry to back its plans this week for a ban on tobacco advertising.

Senior Whitehall sources have told The Independent that they will attack prominent Conservatives for their close links with tobacco companies if the Tories try to oppose the proposals which Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, will outline in a White Paper.

The Government is implementing an EU directive banning tobacco advertising on poster sites by 2000, a year ahead of the maximum allowed by the European agreement. But it is expected that some Tory MPs will oppose Britain replacing the voluntary code with a compulsory ban.

Although ministers are vulnerable over allowing sponsorship of Formula One racing by tobacco companies to continue until 2006, the Government is prepared to use the Labour dossier which names Kenneth Clarke, the former Chancellor, as the most prominent Tory link with the tobacco industry.

Mr Clarke, a former health secretary, is the deputy chairman of British American Tobacco, a post thought to pay at least pounds 75,000 a year.

The leading spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers Association is John Carlisle, the former outspoken right-wing Tory MP.

The dossier claims that the Tories received donations totalling pounds 100,000 before the 1992 general election from Rothmans. More discreet payments have been made including pounds 4,000 towards the right wing think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, by BAT Industries.

Baroness Thatcher is also a consultant to Philip Morris, manufacturer of Marlboro. Ian Greer Associates, the now defunct lobbying company which crashed after being implicated in the allegations of Tory cash-for-questions, also lobbied for Skoal Bandits before they were banned in this country.

The Conservatives were also handed key advertising posters sites reserved for the tobacco industry before the 1992 election campaign.

The Tories have said they will respond to curbs on advertising on their merits, but the party's former spokesman on health, John Maples, said an EU-wide ban on all forms of tobacco advertising was ``an unnecessary and potentially unworkable piece of legislation".

Mr Dobson and Tessa Jowell, the Public Health minister, will also accuse the tobacco industry of targeting young people with their campaigns.

They will propose new curbs on using fashion brand names to advertise cigarettes, and propose a wide range of measures to help smokers give up the habit. Family doctors will be encouraged to run clinics to help smokers stop, by issuing nicotine patches and chewing gum at cut-price rates, instead of the across-the-counter price of pounds 6 a pack.

The measures will be aimed particularly at those on low incomes, who have proved resistant to health warnings about the dangers of smoking.

Ministers feared making nicotine gum and patches generally available on prescription would be too expensive.

Curbs on smoking in the workplace will be included in the package. Employees will be told they could be covered by the health and safety at work acts to stop smoking in small offices.

There will be no ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants, but owners will be urged to provide more smoke-free zones.