Britain Snuffs Tobacco Ads in Sports Labour Also Seeks Ban on Cigarette Ads in Newspapers, Billboards

Article excerpt

In waging an all-out war on tobacco advertising, Britain's new Labour government has angered not only cigarettemakers but sports organizations as well.

Labour's move, announced May 19, surprised even some party stalwarts by banning sports sponsorships linked to cigarette brands as part of a general ban. Many sporting bodies depend on such advertising money.

Unlike tobacco manufacturers in the United States, which can challenge the constitutionality of legislation in the courts, manufacturers have no such recourse in Britain. Their only hope is to persuade lawmakers to defeat the proposed ban in Parliament. But Labour's 179-seat majority means that what Labour wants, Labour gets. The European Union is currently considering a similar ban. And Labour's proposal may spur antitobacco groups in the US to call for tougher ad restrictions, especially in light of the current slew of liability cases the American tobacco industry now faces. "Sports sponsorship is one of the most successful forms of advertising for major {cigarette} companies, and we are delighted that the government is at last to break the link between sport and tobacco," says Dr. William O'Neill, spokesman for the British Medical Association. British antitobacco groups also claim that sports sponsorships by tobacco companies are particularly influential with British youths. The proposed ban will mean the early disappearance of huge billboards advertising cigarettes in cities and near freeways, as well as of full-page ads in British newspapers. Since many sports have contracts with tobacco companies, it is expected that such contracts will be honored until they expire but will not be renewed. Cigarette advertising on TV and radio has been forbidden in Britain since 1965. Since 1971, a series of voluntary agreements among British tobacco companies has resulted in one of the world's strictest sets of advertising rules. Cigarette ads cannot target youths, imply that cigarette smoking enhances one's appearance, or include scenic views of nature. Store-window advertising is forbidden, and a mandatory health warning covers 20 percent of each pack of cigarettes. …