Communications News: Politicians pressed to resist ban on smoking

Smokers' lobby group Forest has sent out a mass mailshot to 22,000 local and national politicians, publicising the results of a recent opinion poll showing opposition to a ban on smoking in public places.

Forest fears a New York-style ban in the wake of fervent campaigning by anti-smoking groups in cities, and points out to recipients that 74 per cent of the 10,000 people it surveyed in those areas oppose a blanket ban on smoking in pubs and clubs.

The mailshot follows a month-long advertising campaign that was aimed as much at the media as at the general public, said Forest's director Simon Clark, who is a non-smoker. Forest styles itself as a pro-choice group that is resisting a blanket ban on smoking in public places, and says that the campaign is necessary because its side of the debate receives very little editorial coverage. Clark also said that Labour's poor showing in recent local elections mean the Government is under increasing pressure "to offer something to the backbenchers".

Ten regional newspapers were targeted, with the last of the ads running this week. The Spectator and the New Statesman will also carry the ads this week, and magazine The Week and London's Evening Standard have previously published the Forest campaign.

Clark added that artist David Hockney and TV chef Anthony Worrall Thompson have pledged their support to the campaign.

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