Tobacco advertising ban takes effect

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Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the entry into effect of the EU’s Tobacco Advertising Directive on 31 July. Passed by the European Parliament and Council in 2003, the Directive bans tobacco advertising in the print media, on radio and over the internet. It also prohibits tobacco sponsorship of cross-border cultural and sporting events. Though most EU countries have either passed the necessary laws or are in the process of passing them, it is not clear that all will do so by 31 July. In a separate development, the European Commission has adopted a report on the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive.

Commenting on implementation of the Tobacco Advertising Directive, Commissioner Kyprianou said: “Banning tobacco advertising is one of the most effective ways of reducing smoking. This Directive will save lives and reduce the number of Europeans who suffer from smoking related illnesses.”

Around 650,000 people die each year in the EU from smoking related diseases, so even a small decrease in smoking prevalence has the potential to save thousands of lives.

The 2003 Tobacco Advertising Directive applies only to advertising and sponsorship with a cross-border dimension. Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or using merchandising (e.g. ash trays or parasols) therefore falls outside its scope. So too does tobacco sponsorship at events which are purely local, with participants coming from only one Member State.

Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s, and is governed by the TV Without Frontiers Directive.

The 2003 Directive was passed using the EU’s powers to regulate its internal market. By the 1990s differing national rules on tobacco advertising and sponsorship were becoming a barrier to the free movement between Member States of the products and services carrying them. In 1998 the EU attempted to resolve this problem by passing a directive banning all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship. This directive was annulled by the European Court of Justice in 2001, which ruled that a total ban went beyond the EU¹fs powers. However, the Court stated that the EU could legitimately introduce a more limited ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The 2003 Directive adheres strictly to the limits laid down by the Court in its 2001 judgement.

Tobacco Report

The report on implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive found its provisions on health warnings and maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide are being respected. However, public authorities have a very incomplete picture of the ingredients being used in cigarettes, their functions and their health effects on consumers, mainly due to incomplete disclosure of information by tobacco companies. A consultation on how to make the disclosure rules on additives more effective will be launched in the autumn.