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European Union governments last week finally agreed in principle to a ban of tobacco advertising and sponsorship, though it could take eight years after the ban is enacted to totally extinguish cigarette marketing efforts across the 15 member countries.

The agreement, following eight years of negotiations, passed by a slim majority in the Council of Ministers even though it's a greatly watered-down version of earlier drafts.


Tobacco marketers were quick to label the agreement a "political settlement" with details to be resolved.

After the EU enacts the agreement -- next year or in 1999 -- member countries will have three years to enact it into law. Then, tobacco companies would be able to use print ads for a year after that. Sponsorships would get two years to wind down, and existing sponsorship of events organized at the world level -- such as Formula 1 car racing -- would get five years, on the condition that the money spent and its impact are reduced during that time.

No new tobacco products would be able to carry the trademark of another product.

If the EU enacts the ban next year, all targeted marketing efforts might not disappear till Oct. 1, 2006.

Working parties of officials in the 15 member states and at the EU level already are trying to work out just how the broad-brush agreement will take shape.

No details have been agreed upon, for example, regarding direct marketing or brand endorsement in other categories such as clothing.

Officials' proposals will go before the European Parliament next and, finally, the Council of Ministers once again. That could take up to two years.

"While there is no agreement, there is nothing," said Robert Toet, Brussels-based chairman of the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers. "Our next step is to get some sense put into the [officials'] text, so this thing doesn't go too far."


The European Advertising Tripartite agreed: "So far this is only a political agreement. The issue is not over yet."

John Carlisle, executive director-industry affairs at the U.K.'s Tobacco Manufacturers' Association -- which represents companies spending $97 million annually on advertising and sponsorship -- predicted that EU health ministers will be disappointed to find that a ban would not reduce tobacco consumption.

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