Estonia tries three-year ban on tobacco ads

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TALINN, Estonia -- The Estonian parliament has voted to ban all tobacco advertising on the country's commercial radio and TV stations. The new regulation takes effect January 1, 1998.

"The parliament considered all the scientific evidence, and also evidence provided by health experts. We are convinced that unless we take immediate steps to control tobacco advertising and sales, this country will be faced with huge health bills in 15 to 20 years, which could easily bankrupt us if something isn't done," said Tiit Made, the Estonian Parliament's economics committee chairman.

However, prime minister Tiit Vahi said that although the ban is needed, he is not convinced that banning tobacco advertising can curb smoking habits. "Tobacco products contain nicotine, and nicotine is an addictive drug. That is a scientific fact. Another scientific fact is that countries that banned tobacco advertising on TV and radio, have not seen a dramatic decrease in tobacco use," said Tiit.

The prime minister said the government would allow the ban to continue for an "assessment period" of three years. The ban is slated to be reviewed at the end of this term. "If there is no dramatic change in the number of smokers, and the number of new addicts, and I use that term in a scientific context, then we will reconsider whether or not to maintain a ban on tobacco advertising, and examine other ways of tackling the problem," said Vahi.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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