Belgium votes for tobacco ad, sponsorship ban

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BRUSSELS -- Belgian ad agencies handling cigarette accounts are hoping for a grand finale by their tobacco clients before a total ban on cigarette advertising is introduced in 1999. As expected, the Belgian Parliament on the evening of January 9 voted in the ban on both advertising and sponsorship promotions for tobacco brands.

"If I were a tobacco marketing director I would end with a bang," says a hopeful Reynald Legrelle, account director on Marlboro at the Brussels office of Leo Burnett. "I would also start buying up point of sale space at retailers," he adds.

Point of sale, together with ad space in imported magazines and newspapers, are the only sites that will be allowed to carry tobacco branding under the new law.

"The price of point of sale space is going to soar," adds Legrelle. "Retailers could well end up earning more from selling this space than they do from selling their goods."

Tobacco advertising in magazines and newspapers has been banned in Italy and Finland since the 1960s. France banned print tobacco ads under its 1991 Loi Evin. And Norway, a member of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), also bans such print ads.

At present there is no EU-wide law concerning tobacco advertising. A proposed directive on the issue has been held up by a blocking minority for the past six years.

Each consecutive six month presidency of the Union has tried to break the block by watering down the directive, but none has succeeded so far.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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