Smoking campaigners praise ban and set sights on F1

Tobacco advertising
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Tobacco advertising and sponsorship is to be banned in a Bill designed to cut smoking-related deaths and disease.

Tobacco advertising and sponsorship is to be banned in a Bill designed to cut smoking-related deaths and disease.

Cancer and anti-smoking charities welcomed the Bill, which will forbid the advertising of cigarettes on billboards and in cinemas, newspapers and magazines.

But ministers will be pressed by health groups not to offer Formula One motor racing a three-year extension. Labour was embarrassed three years ago after it emerged that Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One boss, had donated £1m to the party's funds before the 1997 general election, which it was later forced to return.

Motor racing and snooker are expected to be given until 2006 to ban tobacco sponsorship, instead of the 2003 deadline for other sports in the Bill.

Ministers decided to introduce a Bill banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship after tobacco companies succeeded in blocking a European Union directive that would have introduced a similar ban throughout Europe. Brussels' directive gave Formula One three extra years to ban sponsorship, a move which had government backing.

Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health, said: "There is no good reason why Formula One should have this extension. It looks as though Bernie's bung is coming bouncing back. The Government accepts that banning tobacco advertising will save lives, so the onus is on them to do the right thing and not give Formula One any special treatment."

Ministers estimate that a ban on tobacco advertising would eventually lead to a 2.5 per cent reduction in the number of smokers, which would save up to 3,000 lives a year. Smoking kills 120, 000 people a year in the UK.

The Tories are expected to back the Bill, but last night Liam Fox, the shadow Health Secretary, said his party would "wait for the detail" and evidence that banning advertising would cut the number of people who smoked. "Our policy is to get smoking levels down. Smoking is the biggest cause of ill health that we have," Dr Fox said. "If it comes to a choice between public health and the tobacco industry, I think public health would be a priority."

The Government introduced ambitious targets on cutting smoking in 1998 in its White Paper, "Smoking Kills".

These included reducing the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy from 23 per cent to 18 per cent by 2005, and reducing smoking among children from 13 per cent to 11 per cent over the same period.

Cancer charities said that the Bill banning the promotion and advertising of tobacco heralded "the beginning of the end for the tobacco industry".

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, praised the Government for giving the reduction of smoking priority in the Queen's Speech.

"The Government has stood firm and listened to public opinion rather than the persistent bleatings of the tobacco manufacturers, who even now refuse to accept responsibility for the needless deaths of millions of people worldwide," Professor McVie said.