Tobacco manufacturers are hoping that newly-appointed Health Secretary Alan Milburn will soft pedal on Government restrictions as Rothmans is one of the largest employers of his Darlington constituency.
John Carlisle, spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA), believes Milburn, who was named as successor to Frank Dobson this week, may be more sympathetic to their cause.
Before the last election Milburn campaigned to save the two Rothmans factories, which employ 1,200 people. He lobbied senior management at the company, saying: “The consequences of closure don’t bear thinking about.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman denies Milburn would be more “tobacco friendly”. She says: “Alan Milburn is not more favourably disposed towards the tobacco industry than his predecessor. He is just as determined to get the ban on tobacco advertising through and it will go ahead as planned on December 10.”
The TMA is testing the Government’s commitment to banning ads earlier than the rest of Europe in the High Court.
Carlisle says: “I would hope that with this secretary of state we might get a better balance and a better understanding of our problems.
“He has been round the Rothmans factory. I think he should be more sympathetic on the smuggling issue and that may have a bearing on the health issue.
“He cannot block his ears to the fact that a considerable body of people in his constituency are employed in the tobacco industry.”