Anti-smoking campaigners have expressed disappointment at a High Court ruling blocking the government's tobacco advertising ban.

Action on Smoking and Health issued a draft private member's bill and urged the government to support it as a 'fast-track' method of getting a ban in place.

Health secretary Alan Milburn said he was 'appalled that the tobacco companies are trying to undermine a clear manifesto commitment for which there is widespread public support' and said an appeal would be lodged against the ruling.

The High Court backed an argument put forward by four UK tobacco companies that the government was behaving prematurely by implementing the European Tobacco Advertising Directive while it was still being challenged in the European Court of Justice.

Mr Justice Turner said it was 'strongly arguable' that the companies would succeed in their European challenge. A ruling is expected towards the end of next year.

Imperial Tobacco said it was 'a pity' it had been 'forced' to take legal action.

Mr Milburn called for the industry to honour its offer of a voluntary ban on press and poster advertising by the end of the year.