Experts Press UK Government on Tobacco Ad Ban
LONDON (Reuters Health) - A group of Britain's leading medical figures on Wednesday urged the government to support proposed legislation that would ban tobacco advertising.
In a letter in The Times, George Alberti, President of the Royal College of Medicine, and others called on government ministers to support a Lords Private Members Bill introduced by the Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Clement-Jones. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.
``It is not often that ministers have the chance to do something that will make a major difference to health, be popular with the public and cost almost nothing. Health Minister Mr. Alan Milburn should act now to meet his Government's long-standing commitment and give the Bill wholehearted support,'' the letter reads.
Other signatories include Mark Britton, Chair of Trustees of the British Lung Foundation, Charles George, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, Gordon McVie, Director General of The Cancer Research Campaign, and Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse, Director General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
The Labour government has repeatedly said it wants to ban tobacco advertising, and introduced its own Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill in 2000. But the bill was omitted from this year's post-election Queen's speech, which sets the legislative agenda for the coming session of parliament, with ministers citing lack of parliamentary time.
The new Bill is identical to the government's, and Clive Bates from the charity Action on Smoking and Health (news - web sites) said that there are indications that government peers are seriously considering giving it their support.
``The Liberal-Democrats have made Lords Private Members' time available to the government and they would be mad not to take advantage of that,'' Bates told Reuters Health.
Smoking-related disease kills 120,000 Britons each year. Government figures show that banning tobacco advertising could eventually save up to 3,000 lives annually.