Cigarette advert ban overruled by court

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Ministers received a serious setback to their plans to cut deaths from smoking yesterday when the European Court of Justice annulled an EU directive banning tobacco advertising.

Ministers received a serious setback to their plans to cut deaths from smoking yesterday when the European Court of Justice annulled an EU directive banning tobacco advertising.

Tobacco companies won a legal victory as the court backed their claims that the European Commission had "no power" to introduce the law, which would have brought in measures effective from July.

The ruling will provoke a spate of legal challenges to European Union laws on smoking, including a directive that bans the description of low-tar brands of cigarettes as "mild" and "light". But ministers insisted yesterday that it would not deflect plans to ban tobacco advertising in Britain.

The Department of Health is preparing to introduce a Bill banning such advertising in this year's Queen's Speech. It will be stronger than the EU ban and will introduce restrictions on promotion, including a clampdown on advertising of cigarette brands on clothing and other products.

Yvette Cooper, Public Health minister, said: "This ruling is a disappointment but it will not deflect us from implementing our manifesto commitment to ban tobacco advertising. We would like to implement a ban at European level ... but if that is not going to be possible then we will implement a ban at UK level."

The court decision was condemned by anti-smoking and cancer charities who said it would increase smokingrelated deaths. Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "We look to the British Government to stand firm against the tobacco industry's wrecking tactics."

Tobacco companies were delighted by the ruling but said they would look at legal ways to prevent the Government bringing in restrictions on the information they can give to smokers.

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