A ban on tobacco advertising has clearly taken on symbolic importance for everyone involved in the war against smoking and as a result some important arguments have been overlooked.
Government has a responsibility to educate people about the health risks of smoking but banning the promotion of a legal product is a step too far. A ban would set a precedent that could extend to other products such as alcohol, fatty foods and fast cars.
Health professionals claim that a ban will reduce the number of young people who smoke, but all the evidence suggests that teenagers start smoking because of peer pressure and a desire to appear “grown up”. Advertising has nothing to do with it. Advertising was banned in the old Soviet Union but that didn’t stop a large proportion of the male population from smoking.
Most importantly, prohibiting tobacco advertising will be counter-productive. It will remove all those government health warnings from thousands of billboards, magazines and newspapers and, as a young smoker myself, it is those warnings – not the obscure images featured in the advertisements – that stick in my head.