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Tobacco ads illegal in Britain from today

London, Feb. 13 (Reuters): Britain will stub out tobacco advertising tomorrow when it becomes illegal to promote cigarettes through advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on billboards.

Aimed at cutting down on more than 120,000 smoking-related deaths in Britain a year, the ban also ends a century of clever and often artistic advertising.

“For many years, advertisers have wrestled with their collective conscience over the tobacco issue,” John Tylee, associate editor of advertising magazine Campaign, said.

“Now they will be forced to look for new ways to promote smoking, but from a creative point of view this ends some of the most innovative advertising ever seen,” he said.

The death knell has been sounding for tobacco advertisers in Britain ever since the 1960s when the Marlboro Man disappeared from television screens following a ban on TV commercials for cigarettes.

In 1971, health warnings appeared on cigarette packs and ads, culminating in the blunt “smoking kills” message now found on many packs.

Banned from suggesting that smoking was popular, relaxing, fashionable or implying that it was linked to personal success or sexual prowess, advertisers were forced to explore new ways of promoting their killer product.

Immortal examples in Britain include the ads for Hamlet cigars, a widely acclaimed series in which life’s trials are soothed by a smoke to the strains of Bach’s “Air on a G String.”

Surreal adverts for Benson & Hedges featured a sequence of unrelated objects travelling through the Arizona desert.

“Nobody knew what connection there could be between a helicopter, an iguana, a sardine can and a pack of Benson & Hedges,” said Tylee.

“The ads were surreal and didn't really mean anything — but people remembered them.”

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