SKOAL Bandits, tobacco sachets sucked in the mouth, are to be banned

by the Government because of the dangers, particularly to young people.

Health Secretary Mr Kenneth Clarke said yesterday he was acting to

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''prevent our children and young people from taking up this dangerous

habit.''

The ban on all oral snuff will come into effect on March 13 and is

part of the Government's new campaign to curb teenage smoking.

Clarke added that the clampdown would prevent ''snuff-dipping'' --

holding tobacco between the cheek and gum so nicotine can be absorbed

into the bloodstream.

The best-known products are Skoal Bandits. The Government was

criticised in 1986 when it was disclosed it had given #193,000 in

development grants to an East Kilbride factory making them.

Mr CLarke said yesterday in a written Commons reply that snuff-dipping

was still fortunately uncommon in Britain.

However, he added: ''We have been seriously concerned by reports from

Sweden and the United States which show how attractive to young people

oral snuff can become.

''We have also taken into account evidence that this habit can result

in mouth cancer, which is particularly difficult to treat

successfully.''

The aim of the ban was ''to protect our population, particularly our

young people, from the serious health risks.

''The Government's action should nip this dangerous new habit in the

bud,'' said Mr Clarke.

The ban will not affect traditional chewing tobacco, loose tobacco

sold for pipes and cigarettes, or snuff taken by the nose.

Mr Clarke said the Government had received many calls to ban Skoal

Bandits and their like.

After consulting companies making oral snuff and other Common Market

countries, ''no new evidence or arguments have come to light which

suggest the proposed ban is not justified.''

Hamilton-East Kilbride Health Council has spearheaded a three-year

campaign against oral tobacco.

Winnie Sherry, secretary of the health council, said: ''I'm absolutely

delighted that the Government has at long last decided to respond to the

massive public opinion against these products.''

However, US Tobacco International, which employs 20 at the East

Kilbride factory, said it would fight the ''arbitrary and

discriminatory'' ban, which becomes effective in March.

It said in a statement: ''We are surprised and concerned that only

four years after having been invited by the Government to establish a

business in an area of high unemployment, such a blatantly

discriminatory ban should be proposed.

''We believe all tobacco products should be treated uniformly.

''The Government's arbitrary ban will unfairly discriminate against a

small sector of the tobacco market supplied only by companies importing

into the UK.

''Consequently, it violates the fundamental principles of

international trade. We intend to use all the means at our disposal to

challenge this decision.''

The company said the ''inconsistency'' behind the Government's action

was highlighted by the financial aid given to establish the factory, and

there had been ''full Government inter-departmental consultations''.

The company said: ''At the time the Department of Health concluded

that 'in the view of the long established freedom which allows all forms

of tobacco to be sold legally in the UK, it would be anomalous to take

action solely directed at oral snuff while other tobacco products are

sold legally in Britain'.''

US Tobacco International said only 29 days ago it had concluded a

revised marketing agreement with the Government similar to the

agreements on the sale of cigarettes.

East Kilbride MP Adam Ingram said: ''Given the support the company was

given to bring the jobs to East Kilbride, I will be seeking from the

appropriate Government Ministers whether or not they wil be prepared to

provide compensation to the employees.

''I will also be endeavouring to encourage the company to remain in

East Kilbride and to convert its productive processes to producing more

acceptible products.''

Strathclyde East Euro MP Ken Collins said: ''I'm very pleased that the

Government has at last listened to the Hamilton-East Kilbride Health

Council and in the meantime the European campaign will continue.''