Tobacco ad ban: new enforcement powers ‘give teeth’ but transitional delays are ‘pointless appeasement’

Monday 11 October 1999
ASH/ Press releases/

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Press releaseMonday 11th October 1999

Action on Smoking and Health

Tobacco advertising ban – new enforcement powers ‘give teeth’ but transitional delays are ‘pointless appeasement’

ASH gave a mixed response to the new tobacco advertising regulations – dismissing the new transitional arrangements as ‘pointless appeasement’ but warmly welcoming the new enforcement powers as putting in the missing teeth. ASH’s overall verdict is that on balance the regulations have been strengthened through consultation.

The Government has listened to ASH concerns about the monitoring and enforcement of the advertising ban by enabling the Secretary of State to take enforcement action as well as local Trading Standards Officers. Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“Legislation can be as tough as you like on paper, but if there aren’t the bodies ready to take the tobacco companies to court then it isn’t going to work.  It was too much to rely on local authority Trading Standards Officers to take on the likes of Philip Morris.”

A legal opinion commissioned by ASH over the summer suggested that the draft regulations might be an inadequate transposition of Article 4 of the Directive – the article dealing with monitoring and enforcement.“This will substantially strengthen the tobacco advertising ban – it means central government will be taking on the roughest legal fights with the tobacco industry rather than leaving it to local authorities. This gives it the teeth we were looking for.” said Bates.

ASH expressed disappointment at the clutch of transitional arrangements announced in the detailed regulations. “I don’t know why the government is bending over backwards to appease the tobacco industry with these concessions. Tobacco advertisers have been on notice since Labour published its manifesto in ’97 and have already had more than enough transitional time.”

But overall ASH remains a strong supporter of the Government’s initiative in banning tobacco advertising. “The transitional concessions are annoying and pointless, but we should still keep the big picture in mind and applaud and celebrate the approaching end of tobacco advertising.”

“On balance, the final regulations are actually stronger than the draft version we saw in June. The permanent benefit of the new enforcement powers easily outweighs the temporary irritation of the transitional arrangements. Once the ban is fully in place, there will at least be more chance of it actually working.” said Bates.

On 11th-12th October the Government faces judicial review proceedings brought by the tobacco companies which are trying to stop the advertising ban going ahead.  ASH described the action as ‘more time wasting’ and ‘a display of petulence by a thuggish industry that can’t accept it no longer has the Government in its pocket’.


The enforcement provisions have been strengthened by enabling the Secretary of State to take action rather than just relying on Trading Standards Officers and “enforcement arrangements will be kept under review to ensure enforcement is effective and adequately resourced.” This is good news, and our verdict is that the permanent benefit of the improved enforcement outweighs the temporary irritation of the new transitional provisions. The Government “reserves the right to amend this legislation further, or introduce new legislation, if there are attempts to circumvent the ban.”

Transitional arrangements
In the draft regulations published on 17th June, all forms of advertising that were not included in the definition of sponsorship would be banned on 10 December 1999 (sponsorships would end in 2003 for domestic/EU events or in a phased manner by 2006 for global events). The final regulations introduce some additional transitional arrangements as follows (obviously all are within the times allowed by the Directive):
1. Direct marketing – current contracts at current volumes can be continued until 1 July or the end of the contract – whichever is sooner.

2. In pack promotion (coupons etc) customers can redeem coupons until 1 July 2000 (doesn’t allow new coupons to be issued).

3. Retail outlets – three months more for shops to adjust to the point-of-sale restrictions (advertising allowed only on gantries and shelving) 10 March 2000

4. Brandsharing: companies producing products which shared branding in good faith before 30 July 1998 will be given until 20 July 2001 to ensure that their branding is distinct.

5. EU publications: form other member states may continue to carry tobacco advertising until July 2002 subject to a maximum UK circulation (this takes account of different timings of implementation of the directive in the member states).

6. In-flight magazines with tobacco advertising by non-EU airlines. Continues until July 2002 the maximum allowed by the direct.

Of these, 1,2 and 3 are relative minor, though unnecessary, delays. 4 is the most problematic, merely adding to the difficulties in containing ‘brand-sharing’. 5 and 6 are just practicalities.


Contact Clive Bates, Director (0207) 739 5902

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