The European Parliament is set to demand a much quicker end to
tobacco advertising and sponsorship than under the timetable agreed last
week by EU health ministers.
Labour Euro MPs are threatening to defy Tony Blair by voting down the
controversial eight-year exemption for Formula One racing. They are also
angry that poster companies would be given three years and the press
four years to phase out the ads after the EU directive is finally
approved next year.
After nine years of debate, ministers hailed their ’historic agreement’
on a European-wide ban at talks in Brussels last Thursday.
But this week leading Labour figures in the European Parliament, where
the socialists are the largest group, said the parliament looked certain
to exercise its right to amend the proposed directive.
Ken Collins, who chairs the parliament’s Environmental Committee,
predicted that Euro MPs would not accept the ’loose timetable’ agreed by
’The parliament may try to eliminate the transition periods or go for a
much reduced transition period. Parliament’s view will probably be that
there is far too much flexibility in the common position. In the end it
is a fairly weak compromise,’ he said.
Uncertainty over the future of tobacco promotion increased further when
the German Government and the British tobacco industry both threatened
legal action to try to overturn the ministers’ decision.
Germany claims the ad ban should have been left to member states to
decide, while tobacco companies believe the directive may breach the
’freedom of expression’ guaranteed by the European Convention on Human
The Tobacco Manufacturers Association fears that a last-minute addition
to the directive, outlawing ’any form of commercial communication’
promoting a tobacco product, may kill off direct mail. The European
Commission and the British Government softened their line against direct
marketing last month but, the TMA claims, sought to hit it hard again
after being criticised for letting Formula One escape an immediate
Andrew Brown, the director-general of Britain’s Advertising Association,
said the ad community would be sympathetic to a legal challenge. He also
warned that any delay in Europe-wide legislation could result in the UK
implementing its own ad ban.
’The UK Government is relying on European action because it doesn’t take
up parliamentary time,’ he commented. ’But if the European route is
threatened, it will look to domestic legislation.’