Tobacco adverts 'too near schools'

TOBACCO companies are regularly breaching rules on tobacco advertising near schools, according to a doctor who monitored poster sites.

The evidence comes as Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, negotiates with the industry over a fresh voluntary agreement on advertising. He is also reported to be seeking a ban on poster adverts within a mile of schools. Such a move would, in effect, mean a total ban on tobacco poster advertising, the industry says.

The voluntary agreement says poster advertising may not be placed 'if clearly visible and identifiable from within buildings or boundaries of schools . . . nor adjacent to entrances and exits or the pavements forming the boundaries to such schools.'

Dr Bruce Guthrie, a GP working at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, says he identified 22 schools out of 192 in four inner London boroughs that had such poster sites. He then visited them for six months.

'By the end of the survey, tobacco advertisements had been placed in violation of the voluntary agreement near two- thirds of the 22 schools,' Dr Guthrie reports in the British Medical Journal. The numbers in any one month with advertisements outside them varied from two to eight.

He said yesterday: 'It is a question of whether the industry can be trusted with a voluntary agreement and on this evidence they are not trustworthy. If the Government is serious about reducing smoking it should ban tobacco advertising.'

Cutting teenage smoking by at least a third is a key target of Health of the Nation but the Department of Health admits progress has been 'disappointing.' Dr Mawhinney has said 'firmer controls' are needed over the exposure of children to tobacco advertising.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said adverts put up by poster companies 'without thinking properly' were removed when complaints were received.

Letter to Mawhinney, page 17

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