EU rejects plea for voluntary curbs on tobacco mailshots

A Government move to have direct marketing exempted from the European Union’s proposed ban on tobacco advertising may be scuppered by Brussels.

A Government move to have direct marketing exempted from the

European Union’s proposed ban on tobacco advertising may be scuppered by

Brussels.



UK ministers had hoped to avoid charges of creating a ’nanny state’ by

preventing a ban on mailshots to smokers. Instead, they had planned a

tougher voluntary code, working in conjunction with the tobacco

industry.



But in talks over how to implement the draft directive on tobacco

promotion agreed by EU health ministers in December, the UK has failed

to persuade the European Commission and its EU partners that controls

over direct marketing should be left to member states to put in

place.



A sign that the Government will adopt a tougher line on direct mail

emerged when Baroness Jay, the Health Minister, said in a written reply

in the House of Lords that the directive, if implemented in its current

form, would ’ban any form of commercial communication with the aim,

direct or indirect, of promoting a tobacco product’.



Anti-smoking MPs, who want all tobacco promotions to be outlawed, are

now urging ministers to end the confusion over direct marketing when

they publish a white paper on smoking this summer.



One senior Labour MP said this week: ’Direct mail is now the key

battleground. We know that some ministers want to avoid the ban but

there is strong pressure from Labour MPs and Brussels to ensure the

Government sticks to the EU directive.’



Meanwhile, Jay has revealed that courts may have to resolve which

promotional material is covered by the EU ban. ’It will be for the

courts to determine whether any particular example constitutes the

promotion of a tobacco product and is therefore subject to the ban,’ she

commented.



The Tobacco Manufacturers Association warned that going down this route

would produce a legal quagmire. ’We wouldn’t know where we stood,’ John

Carlisle, its executive director, said.



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