Ban on tobacco advertising may be put back on the agenda after all

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Ministers are preparing to introduce a long-awaited bill to ban tobacco advertising after there was outcry when it was omitted from the Queen's speech.

Ministers are preparing to introduce a long-awaited bill to ban tobacco advertising after there was outcry when it was omitted from the Queen's speech.

Government whips are putting pressure on MPs not to introduce a private member's bill banning cigarette advertising, telling them privately that ministers have their own plans to introduce an identical bill later this year.

Dr Desmond Turner, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, had planned to introduce his private member's bill but Labour whips have been privately asking him not to proceed, making it clear they could not guarantee Government backing but hinting that the Government plans to introduce its own bill.

Dr Turner, a scientist and reformed smoker, said: "I would be very happy not to proceed with this bill if the Government goes ahead with it but I would like a cast-iron reassurance that they will do it. For me, the reason for getting this bill through this session rather than next is you can immediately start counting the number of lives that can be saved."

Any bill would aim to ban tobacco advertising on billboards, in the media and on shop fronts. Sponsorship of sports would also be phased out. The Government was stung by criticism from health and cancer charities after it dropped the idea earlier this year. It is facing extra embarrassment after a member of the Scottish Parliament decided to introduce a bill aimed at securing a ban north of the border.

There will be an outcry from the anti-smoking lobby if the Government fails to find time for a bill this year. Clive Bates, the director of anti-smoking group Ash, said: "It will be extremely embarrassing if Scotland has moved ahead without Westminster. What's the point of the Government spending £15 million year on anti-tobacco campaigns while the tobacco companies spend £100million a year on advertising which pulls in the other direction? We will be watching the Government very closely on this."

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