Young children not protected by tobacco advertising code

Monday 19 August 1996
ASH/ Press releases/

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Press Release

19th August 1996

Action on Smoking
and Health


Children attending nursery schools are morelikely to see tobacco advertisements than are older children because of a major loopholein the voluntary agreement on tobacco promotion. Despite a clause in the agreement whichstates that cigarette ads should not be placed near to schools or “places ofeducation for young people”, COMATAS, the body which monitors the agreement, hasruled that nursery schools are not covered and that the Committee has no intention ofamending the agreement to protect young children.

Bradford Stubs It Out, a local tobacco controlinitiative in West Yorkshire, wrote to COMATAS (the Committee for Monitoring Agreements onTobacco Advertising and Sponsorship) to ask why nursery schools were not included in thevoluntary agreement. COMATAS replied that there would be “practicaldifficulties” in identifying them.

Dr. Sheila Webb of Bradford Health Authoritysaid: “COMATAS claims that it is not possible to ban tobacco ads near to nurseryschools because of the difficulty in identifying them. This is not the case. We haveobtained a list of all registered nursery schools in the Bradford district and similarlists will be available from Social Services departments throughout the UK. The Governmentis not taking adequate steps to protect children from tobacco advertising if nurseryschool children are being ignored.”

Pamela Furness, Chief Executive of ASH said:”The COMATAS ruling clearly demonstrates the inadequacy of the voluntary agreements.Despite government rhetoric, children are not protected from tobacco advertising. Studieshave shown that by the age of six children can identify cigarette ads and that those whohave positive views of the ads are more likely to become smokers.

“The Government’s stubbornness to bantobacco advertising is intolerable. Half of all the children who take up smoking now andcontinue to smoke in adulthood will die prematurely from tobacco-induced diseases. If theGovernment is truly committed to reducing smoking amongst teenagers, it is now vital thatit chooses action rather than words by ending all tobacco promotion.”




Notes for editors:

  • The National Audit Office report released on 14 August 1996 revealed that the Government had failed to reach one of its key Health of the Nation targets: the reduction of teenage smoking. The target set in 1992 was to reduce smoking prevalence among 11-15 year olds to 6% by the end of 1994. Not only was the target not reached but the trend has been reversed: by 1994 12% of 11-15 year olds were regular smokers.
  • COMATAS (the Committee for Monitoring Agreements on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship) was set up to monitor the voluntary agreements. It is not independent – half of the committee is made up of tobacco industry representatives and the other half by civil servants. No independent health experts serve on the committee. Furthermore, meetings of COMATAS are held in secret and no minutes are available for public scrutiny. The voluntary agreements are not comprehensive and do not cover all forms of promotion. There are no penalties for breaches of the agreement.
  • The latest voluntary agreement states that tobacco advertisements should not be placed near to schools. A study by Dr. Bruce Guthrie, a registrar in general practice, found that ads continued to appear on poster sites near to schools in Newcastle upon Tyne long after the agreement had come into force. ASH frequently receives calls about breaches in the voluntary agreement system, particularly with regard to the placing of ads. near to schools.
  • BAT Industries, the world’s second-largest tobacco manufacturer, has recently sponsored a school in south-east London. This is the second such sponsorship deal. In 1988, BAT gave £1 million to help set up one of the first city technology colleges in Teeside.
Contact Amanda Sandford (020) 7739 5902
Dr Sheila WebbDavid Reed (Yorkshire ASH) 01274 3660610113 2794535

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