Byrne reignites battle to ban EU-wide cigarette advertising

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Series Details Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p2
Publication Date 17/05/2001
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Date: 17/05/01

By David Cronin and John Shelley

Health chief David Byrne is due to make a fresh attempt to ban cigarette advertising in the next month, despite fears that the move will be blocked by Germany.

Commission officials are putting the final touches to a revision of the 1998 directive on tobacco promotion, which was ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice last year. Byrne has told them that the new proposal must not run the risk of a further legal challenge.

The court stated that the law was too wide in scope to be introduced under the internal market provisions of the Union's treaties. To comply with that decision, the new law will have to be far less ambitious.

One draft suggests the measure should mainly be confined to advertisements in publications distributed across EU states. The previous directive required the phasing out of virtually all large campaigns by 2006.

But Germany, which joined several cigarette makers in taking the case to the Luxembourg court, has indicated it will refuse to support Byrne's plan. "There are no legal bases in the EU's treaties for any harmonisation of national health measures across the EU," said a spokesman for the Berlin administration.

Anti-smoking supporters are incensed that Gerhard Schröder's government is so strongly influenced by the tobacco lobby. "The German position is more or less laughable," said Sibylle Fleitmann of the European Network for Smoking Prevention. "They don't seem to give a damn about public health; economics seems to be the only thing they care about." The campaigners say it would be preferable if the Commission refrains from taking any action rather than adopt a proposal they deem ineffective.

Meanwhile, MEPs this week gave their final approval to new EU laws on the content and packaging of cigarettes which place strict upper limits on tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine levels for cigarettes will come into force on 30 September 2002.

All cigarette packs sold in the EU will have health warnings covering at least 30% of the front and 40% of the back of packets. The new rules will also ban the use of cigarettes described as "light" and "mild."

Tobacco companies have warned that up 8,000 jobs could be at risk. Speaking to the MEPs this week, Byrne dismissed these fears comparing them to similar warnings that were made when the Commission introduced tobacco legislation in 1980.

Health chief, David Byrne, is due to make a fresh attempt to ban cigarette advertising in the next month, despite fears that the move will be blocked by Germany.

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