A Commons committee has launched a scathing attack on agencies for
seeking to get round Government attempts to ban tobacco advertising.
In a report published on Wednesday, the all-party Health Select
Committee said: ’Advertising agencies have connived in promoting tobacco
consumption, have shamelessly exploited smoking as an aspirational
pursuit in ways that inevitably make it attractive to children, and have
attempted to use their creative talents to undermine Government policy
and evade regulation.’
The MPs based their strong criticism on a mountain of evidence submitted
by four agencies with tobacco accounts - M&C Saatchi, CDP, Mustoe
Merriman Herring Levy and TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, who were quizzed
during the committee’s inquiry.
They said that the agencies’ strategy documents showed their argument
that ads were designed only to persuade existing smokers to switch
brands was ’completely discredited’.
The MPs said the evidence also showed that voluntary agreements had
served the public badly. ’Regulations have been seen as hurdles to be
side-stepped; legislation banning advertising as a challenge, a policy
to be undermined by whatever means possible,’ the report said.
It proposed that all future regulations be statutory and policed by a
new Tobacco Regulatory Authority. It urged the Government to opt for a
total ban on sponsorship as well as advertising.
The MPs accused Paul Bainsfair, the chairman of TBWA, of being
’inconsistent’ after he denied the agency was targeting 15-year-olds but
admitted there might an overlap from ads aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds.
This article was first published on Campaign