On Monday in Brussels the British government opposed a new European Union ban on tobacco advertising, arguing that it did not go far enough and needed strengthening. Also on Monday the British government opposed a new European Union ban on tobacco advertising because it will come into force ahead of similar UK legislation that provides an escape exit for advertising at Grand Prix car racing.

If that seems confusing, it is. The two conflicting statements appeared in reliable newspapers yesterday morning, leaving their readers uncertain as to what had really happened at the Brussels meeting and perhaps suspicious that Formula One still maintains its influence in Whitehall. In an effort to clarify matters the Department of Health later issued a statement saying that previous EU anti–smoking legislation had been successfully challenged in the European Court of Justice and it was important to make sure that the latest ban could survive any legal challenge by the tobacco industry. Whichever. The present position is that 13 of the 15 EU members have agreed to implement the new EU legislation.

Britain is going its own way and so is Germany where there are strong links between manufacturers and the government. Thus the EU is only very slowly making inroads on the tobacco industry's ability to push its killing product. The industry's standard argument that its advertising is all about market–share is fallacious and hypocritical – press, magazine, poster and cinema advertising directed to the young is clearly intended to add to the number of smokers. The sooner it is stopped altogether the better.