Magazine article Marketing

High Court Ruling May Be Too Little Too Late

Magazine article Marketing

High Court Ruling May Be Too Little Too Late

Article excerpt

The High Court has thrown out government plans to introduce the EU tobacco ban a year early. Ian Darby reports on the reactions

Silk Cut's plans for a campaign in the run-up to the government's ban on advertising on December 10, featuring a fat lady and the inevitable line that it's not over until she sings, now seem uncannily prophetic. Last week, the tobacco industry won a High Court victory over the government, which suggests we could all be waiting a little longer to hear her song.

Until the judgement, the government plan was to ban all tobacco advertising from December, with below-the-line to cease next July.

But last Friday the High Court blocked the government's bid to implement the European Tobacco Advertising Directive, a European Union-wide initiative, 18 months earlier than the rest of the EU.

Justice Turner ruled in favour of the tobacco industry, including Imperial, Gallaher, Rothmans UK and British American Tobacco. He said it was "strongly arguable" that the tobacco companies would succeed in an appeal in the European Court of Justice against the European directive late next year.

Industry losses

Justice Turner said if the ban were implemented in the UK, only for the EC directive to be overturned in a year's time by the European Court, then this would leave tobacco companies unnecessarily out of pocket. The ruling leaves the door open for tobacco companies to advertise until the European appeal is heard. However, the Department of Health (Doll) said that it is applying fora High Court appeal and, if successful, expects this to be heard within "weeks rather than months".

While many in advertising and marketing privately accept that a ban in the UK is inevitable, there is some satisfaction that the government has been given a bloody nose.

"This is poetic justice," said Rupert Howell, president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. "The Labour government originally promised to phase in this ban in line with Europe and then decided to rush it through for political expediency."

Andrew Brown of the Advertising Association says: "The government has refused to have talks on minimising the impact on jobs. This is a health issue, masquerading as a measure for harmonising trade."

The revenues lost on advertising have been estimated at [pounds]50m. Matthew Carrington, chairman of the Outdoor Advertising Association, said that [pounds]20m of that will be from the poster industry. …

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