Court halts tobacco ads ban

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The Independent Online

The Government's proposed ban on tobacco advertising was blocked by the High Court today.

The Government's proposed ban on tobacco advertising was blocked by the High Court today.

Tobacco giants Imperial, Gallaher, Rothmans UK and British American Tobacco won an injunction preventing implementation in the UK of the European Tobacco Advertising Directive pending a ruling from the European Court of Justice on the validity of the directive.

Mr Justice Turner said it was "strongly arguable" that the companies would succeed in their European court challenge, judgment on which is expected towards the end of next year.

In the meantime, the Government should be barred from making any regulations under the directive, he said. The Government, which had planned to start introducing the advertising ban on December 10, was granted leave to launch an urgent appeal.

The companies, backed by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, had accused the Government of jumping the gun by introducing the UK ban - albeit phased over three years - without waiting for a ruling from Europe.

They argued that a ban, which would cause them significant financial losses, was not urgent as advertising had no effect on the consumption of tobacco but only on the choice of brand. The UK was not obliged to implement the ban until July 2001.

The Departments of Health and Trade and Industry countered that the prohibition must be introduced as early as possible in the interests of public health.

In the European court case, the companies are challenging the legality of the directive, which introduced serious restrictions on the legal rights and freedoms of those involved in the tobacco trade - from the manufacturers down to local shops.

Speaking after the ruling, Paul Sadler of Imperial Tobacco said: "We are pleased that the court has ruled in our favour.

"It is a pity that we had to take this action.

"We have co-operated fully for many years, in operating a system of voluntary agreements, and hope that effective dialogue between manufacturers and Government can now be reinstated."