Member states of the European Union look set to outlaw tobacco advertising in newspapers, magazines, online and at international sports events within the next four years, after EU health ministers gave the measures the green light.

The legislation was approved by the European Parliament last month [WAMN: 21-Nov-02], and has now been given the thumbs-up by ministers, meaning the bill requires only a final endorsement from parliament to be enacted.

Under the legislation, print and online ads must be phased out in member states by 2005, by which time tobacco firms will also be banned from giving away free promotional cigarettes. The veto on sponsorship of international sporting events comes into force in 2006, as this is the year by which Formula One motor racing has agreed to drop tobacco tie-ups.

Unaffected by the bill are outdoor, cinema and ‘indirect’ (e.g. logos on clothing) advertising, as well as ads in magazines published outside the EU but sold inside. Television advertising is already outlawed by separate legislation.

Of the fifteen member states, the health ministers of thirteen backed the ban.

One of the dissenters was Germany, which argues the bill is too harsh. With its media market dependent on tobacco advertising, Germany has opposed such measures before, having lodged a successful legal challenge to a similar bill two years ago. It is expected to take action against the new legislation, arguing that local and regional publications should be exempt.

The other dissenter was Britain, which argues the bill is not strict enough. “If there is any gap in the directive, the industry will seek to exploit this,” warned UK health secretary Alan Milburn.

Nevertheless, European health commissioner David Byrne is pleased with the measures.

“In the EU alone, big tobacco needs to recruit 500,000 new smokers each year to replace the ones who die prematurely due to smoking-related diseases,” he declared. “The measures we agreed today will make it more difficult for them to do that.”

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff