EU ban on tobacco adverts faces challenge in courts

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The Independent Online
AN ALLIANCE of the tobacco and newspaper industries is to launch a legal onslaught on an EU tobacco advertising and sponsorship ban approved in Strasbourg yesterday.

The European Parliament approved proposals for a ban which is to be fully effective within eight years. It leaves member-states with no option but to change laws to phase out all tobacco publicity and sponsorship of sporting events by 2006 at the latest. The lengthy phase-in was designed primarily to accommodate British complaints about the effects of a sponsorship ban on Formula One motor-racing.

But opponents vowed to attack the EU treaty basis used to justify the clampdown. Robert Toet, of the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Makers, said: "It has nothing to do with harmonising the single market ... the directive unlawfully usurps the sovereignty of member-states to determine their own health policies".

Sir Frank Rogers, chairman of the European Publishers Council, said: "MEPs have participated in an undemocratic process. We are now preparing our legal challenges at national level in every EU member- state to stop implementation of this directive". David Hangar, publisher of the Economist and chairman of the European Advertising Tripartite, said the ban would not reduce the number of young people smoking. "This will not happen by restricting the freedom to advertise in Europe's press those products which are legally on sale".

Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said there was a danger that legal objections could delay implementation of the legislation. Under the directive, print media will have to cease carrying cigarette advertisements within four years. Tobacco-industry sponsorship for all events, sporting, cultural or otherwise not organised at world level will be illegal after five years. Sponsorship of events organised at "world level" will have to be eliminated within eight years or by October 2006 at the latest.

Supporters fear legal challenges could be used by Germany and Austria, which opposed the ban but lacked the votes to block it when it was put to the council of ministers, to stall its implementation. Austria takes over the EU presidency from Britain in July.