An unnamed Eurocrat yesterday unleashed a maelstrom of confusion over the European Union's intended ban on tobacco advertising. The unidentified advocate general, an advisor to the European Court of Justice, challenged the legality of the ban and said it should struck from the legislative list.

Supporting a legal challenge mounted by Germany, together with four UK-based tobacco companies, the advisor opined that the ban had been wrongly adopted as a commercial measure designed to strengthen the single market, whereas it is a health issue and therefore largely outside the EU’s remit. Although the ‘advice’ is not binding on the Court, it has been followed in some eighty per cent of previous cases.

Legal issues regarding health remain primarily within the domain of individual EU member states.

Said a spoke for UK lobby group the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association: "After all [MEPs'] triumphalism and trumpeting this week [WAMN, 14/15-Jun-00] , obviously the wind has been taken out of their sails."

A different note was sounded by the UK government: "We are very disappointed and while we do not want to pre-empt the final ruling, we are preparing to draw up our own legislation," said an official yesterday.

Britain’s Labour government, bound by a manifesto pledge to ban tobacco advertising before the next election, said that if the ECJ’s final decision quashes the EU ban, it will rush through its own legislation to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship within the UK.

News source: Financial Times