The tobacco industry has been given leave to appeal to the House of Lords against a decision by the Court of Appeal backing the Government’s tobacco advertising ban.
The case will be heard over three days in the House of Lords, beginning on May 22.
The European Union directive banning tobacco advertising across Europe is still set to go ahead subject to an industry appeal to the European Court of Justice.
The fast-track UK ban was to take effect last December but the latest appeal hearing will delay it until June at the earliest, if the Government wins.
Industry observers believe the delay has resulted in the tobacco companies breaking voluntary ceilings on ad spends.
One insider says: “Everyone used up their allowances to reach the December deadline. It is hard to stick to an agreement when the period is not clearly defined.”
Amanda Sandford, research director of Action on Smoking and Health, says: “If the industry is claiming innocence on this, then they should make their spending limits public.”
Since 1981, the amount spent on poster sites has been capped by voluntary agreement, which is checked by an independent audit at the end of the financial year.
The big four UK companies poured millions of pounds into a last-minute ad blitz in anticipation of the ban.
Chris Ogden, director of trade and industry affairs at the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, says: “I have no reason to believe our members are in breach of the requirements of the voluntary agreement.”
A Department of Health spokesman says: “If it was true that the tobacco advertisers were breaking the voluntary agreement, that would be another reason for the tobacco advertising ban to have legal force.”