Dispute threatens EU tobacco ad ban

The proposed Europe-wide ban on tobacco advertising has been plunged into fresh controversy amid reports that the European Commission ’bought’ the Greek Government’s support for it.

The proposed Europe-wide ban on tobacco advertising has been

plunged into fresh controversy amid reports that the European Commission

’bought’ the Greek Government’s support for it.



Greece astonished other EU member countries by ending its opposition to

the ban and agreeing to back it at the EU health council meeting on 4

December 1997.



Now the German MEP, Werner Langen, has demanded an investigation into

reports that the Commission got Greece’s support by agreeing that it

need not repay pounds 130 million in illegal subsidies to its tobacco

industry.



The Commission denies any secret agreement with Greece. But Langen said:

’If a deal was done, then this calls into question the validity of the

council’s decision.’



Germany may also take the case to the European Court, claiming that the

health council failed to follow proper procedures when it adopted the

directive.



However, the row is unlikely to scupper the ban. ’Allegations of

inducements are almost impossible to prove,’ an ad industry source

said.



Meanwhile, Britain’s Advertising Association is assembling a ’task

force’ to stop the Commission becoming a ’bureaucratic tyrant’.



Officials are furious at the Commission’s failure to act against

France’s Loi Evin, which prohibits alcohol advertising, Greece’s

restrictions on toy advertising and an unresolved ad infringement case

brought against Germany by Polygram.



Lionel Stanbrook, the AA director-general, has written to Neil Kinnock,

the EU transport commissioner, urging him to stop his support for the

restrictions. ’They damage UK investment,’ he said.



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