The European Commission is about to launch a fresh crusade against tobacco advertising, just months after its last attempt was overturned by the European Court [WAMN: 06-Oct-01], according to a report in today’s issue of German newspaper Die Welt.

Health commissioner David Byrne told the paper that the latest draft legislation – which if passed will ban tobacco ads from newspapers, magazines and the internet – should be ready early next month despite opposition from Germany and Austria.

The Commission attributed its anti-tobacco zeal to the need to safeguard the continent’s youngsters. Around 80% of new smokers are aged under eighteen, said Byrne, adding: “We have to protect our youth.”

Last year’s attempt to outlaw all tobacco advertising was thwarted by the European Court’s ruling that the proposed ban was not an attempt to end unfair trade within the European Union – as argued by the EC – but was instead a health issue over which the EC has less jurisdiction.

Hence the new legislation, which restricts itself to magazines, newspapers and the internet – media which operate across borders and therefore can be claimed under EC authority. Commented Byrne: “[The European Court ruling] defined very exactly the room for manoeuvre that we still have.”

The legislation is unlikely to have an easy passage – last year’s bill faced heavy opposition from countries such as Germany, tobacco companies and the advertising industry, who argued that a ban could cost thousands of jobs across the EU.

News source: New York Times