Tobacco ad ban: legal delays so far will cost over 1,300 lives

Friday 05 May 2000

Press Release, 22nd May 2000

ASH today called on the House of Lords to end the block on the ban on tobacco advertising. Using Government figures, ASH showed that the delay so far (164 days) would ultimately cause the avoidable loss of over 1,300 lives due to the extra smoking driven by continued advertising [1]. The advertising ban [2] has been opposed by the tobacco industry from the start. Having failed in the Appeal Court, it is continuing its legal delaying tactics in the House of Lords today (Monday) [3].

“Their Lordships should understand that this is quite literally a matter of life and death, with thousands of lives at stake. Smoking is so harmful that you don’t need big changes in consumption to create huge health effects.” said Clive Bates, Director of ASH.

The tobacco advertising directive was agreed in June 1998 and a ban on tobacco advertising forms an important part of the Government’s tobacco White Paper, and 1997 election manifesto.  The Government had planned to introduce the first phase of the advertising ban on 10 December 1999 but was blocked by tobacco industry legal action.  If the procedural and legal delays continue to block the advertising ban, ASH will press Ministers to introduce a comprehensive Tobacco Bill as primary legislation in the Queen’s speech this year. This offers the opportunity to block the loopholes in the existing advertising directive and introduce other controls on the tobacco industry – it could even offer a better solution.


Notes to the Editor

[1] The Tobacco (Prohibition of Advertising and Promotion) Regulations 1999 p.16.  The Government cautiously estimates that banning tobacco advertising will cause tobacco consumption to drop by 2.5%. The Government concludes  “As mentioned earlier, smoking is estimated to kill 120,000 people in the UK each year. A 2.5% reduction in the number killed would mean that about 3000 lives a year could be saved.”  3000 lives per year equates to 8.2 lives per day or 1345 lives in the 164 days of delay so far introduced by legal blocking tactics.

[2] Directive 98/43/EC see explanation at

[3] The tobacco companies are requesting a delay in implementing the advertising ban pending the resolution of their substantive complaint to the European Court of Justice – this is a challenge to the legal base of the Directive. The Advocate General of the ECJ will give an opinion on 15th June and it is unlikely that the Lords will decide before hearing that. The final decision of the ECJ is likely before October this year, and it is possible that the Lords will consider this near enough to justify waiting for the ECJ ruling – even if, like the Court of Appeal, they dismiss the companies’ substantive arguments. In that event, the tobacco industry will have secured a delay of about one year.

[4] The tobacco industry has a long and varied history of saying one thing in public, whilst knowing the truth in private: