ASH Opinion poll shows ghost of Ecclestone still haunts Labour

Wednesday 15 August 2001

Embargo:  00.01 hrs. :  Wednesday 15 August 2001


Ghost of Ecclestone still haunts Government as health groups call for tobacco ad-ban.


Anew opinion poll published today shows that around half of people (48%) believe that the Government has delayed legislation to ban tobacco advertising because of lobbying by the tobacco industry and other influential figures such as Bernie Ecclestone. The poll, conducted by ICM Research on behalf of ASH, also showed that almost two thirds of people (63%) support a tobacco ad-ban.


These findings will make uncomfortable reading for Ministers, who have faced strong criticism from public health groups following their decision to drop a tobacco ad-ban from this year’s legislative programme. They will be worried that, four years after the controversy surrounding Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s donation to the Labour Party, and Labour’s subsequent change of policy on tobacco sponsorship for Formula One, memories of this are still fresh in the minds of many voters. Ministers will also be worried by the implication that they are acting as if they are in the pockets of the tobacco industry and other vested interests.


Cancer charities have joined ASH in challenging the Government to disprove these suspicions by banning tobacco advertising this year.


Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), said:


“It’s hardly surprising the public is so cynical. Health professionals, the general public and even the Government have stated that they are opposed to tobacco advertising. Only the tobacco industry is in favour of it. The Government claim that they want to ban tobacco advertising. Now is the time to deliver.”


Sir Paul Nurse, Director General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), said:


By imposing a ban today, the government would be well on the way to achieving its Cancer Plan target to reduce smoking rates by 4 percent. But each day they delay, these targets move further out of reach. Only last month, for example, youth smoking statistics suggested that more kids were taking up the habit.


“It’s clear from this research that banning tobacco advertising would be a popular move. It seems bizarre that the government is sitting on such an important bill.”


John Connolly, Public Affairs Manager at ASH, said:


“This poll shows just how out of step with public opinion the Government is over banning tobacco advertising. A ban would save lives, cost next to nothing and be very popular. I can’t think of much other legislation you can say that about. A Private Members Bill to ban tobacco advertising will be debated in the Autumn. The Government should back this or introduce its own Bill immediately Parliament returns.  If Ministers are worried about voter cynicism, a tobacco ad-ban would go a long way towards reassuring the public that the Government puts public health ahead of big business”




[1]. ICM Research interviewed a random selection of 1004 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 3-5 August 2001. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. The full polling results are available on the ASH website at



[2]. Legislation to ban tobacco advertising was a Government Manifesto commitment in both 1997 and 2001. A Bill which would have implemented this commitment was debated in Parliament in the first half of this year, but was lost due to lack of time in the run-up to the General Election. This Bill was subsequently dropped from June’s Queen’s Speech, but a Liberal Democrat Peer has re-introduced it as a Private Members Bill. Further details are available on the ASH website at




John Connolly (ASH) 020 77395902(Office) or 07702 817477 (Mobile)

Dawn Boyall (ICRF) 020 72692818 (Office) or 07879 425267 (Mobile)

Susan Osborne (CRC) 020 7487 3768(Office) or 07836 229208 (Mobile)


ISDN available.