Parliamentary time is needed to put the tobacco ad ban beyond doubt

It has been a good week for the tobacco industry. First it managed to convince a High Court judge that the 'balance of convenience' lay in overturning the government's efforts to bring in an advertising ban any earlier than it absolutely had to (see news, page 8). Then ministers were forced to retreat over smoking in the workplace.

No matter, apparently, that the government was put into office with a clear manifesto promise on cigarette advertising, nor that the proposed advertising ban has a degree of public and professional support enjoyed by almost no other cause. If ever the law was an ass, and High Court judge Mr Justice Turner ass-like, it is on this issue.

The tobacco industry may be celebrating now - though given that one of the world's largest cigarette manufacturers admitted less than a month ago that its products regularly kill its own customers, it really has little cause. But it should not be allowed the opportunity for celebration much longer.

Health secretary Alan Milburn is right to appeal against the ruling. But he should also press the Cabinet for some parliamentary time to push through a short bill in the next session putting the legal status of the ban beyond doubt. Failing that, he should start looking for a friendly MP with a good place in the private member's bill ballot to take up Action on Smoking and Health's ready drafted bill.