Members of the European parliament voted Wednesday by 311 votes to 202 to impose a ban on all forms of tobacco advertising across the European Union.

The vote is a victory for the anti-smoking lobby in the wake of defeat two years ago when a similar vote was overturned by the European Court of Justice which ruled the ban to be outside the EU’s legal remit.

Since when the relevant rules have been redrafted, resulting in yesterday’s vote which will outlaw tobacco advertising in newspapers and magazines across the European Union, plus those published outside the EU but intended for the EU market. Also affected is internet advertising and tobacco sponsorship of cross-border events such as Formula One motor-racing.

But the cumbersome legal process has not yet ground to its end. Parliament’s latest decision must now be approved by EU health ministers before the bill is finally returned to Parliament for enactment – possibly incorporating revisions introduced by the ministers who will be subjected to intensive lobbying.

Such pressures will not come solely from the tobacco companies. There is also likely to be strident opposition from EU member states such as Germany and Austria who are desperate to retain the hundreds of millions of euros in annual tobacco tax revenues.

However, EC health and consumer protection commissioner David Byrne remains optimistic: “I hope we can have new legislation banning tobacco advertising in the press, on radio and on the internet up and running by this time next year.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff