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(May 30, 2001) BRUSSELS -- The European Commission today proposed a new law to ban tobacco advertising after the first one was thrown out by the European Court of Justice on technical grounds.

"We have taken the good from the previous directive and left out the bad, to ensure that this new proposal is legally and scientifically sound," said David Byrne, commissioner for health and consumer protection.

The new law will outlaw tobacco ads in all print publications sold in the EU, as well as ads aired on radio and posted on the Internet. It will also ban tobacco sponsorship of international events taking place in Europe and free handouts of cigarettes at such events. TV advertising of tobacco is already banned throughout the EU.

The proposed law, however, will exclude posters and cinema advertising. It was the inclusion of these two media that prompted the European Court to overrule the first tobacco advertising directive last October, said Beatte Gminder, commission spokeswoman for consumer protection. The directive will not cover cigarette product placement either, she added.

The Court ruled that there was no justification for banning cinema and poster ads and indirect advertising such as point-of-sale material because those media don't "contribute to facilitate trade in the Community."

"The Commission proposal was to be expected following the annulment of the first directive," said Wilfried Dembach, chairman of the confederation of European Community cigarette manufacturers.

The industry says it is willing to accept "appropriate restrictions on advertising" and is offering to play a constructive role in the consultation process for the new directive, the manufacturers said in a statement.

Commissioner Byrne said that like the last time, the motivation behind this latest directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship is the link between these marketing activities and health.

"Around 500,000 people die prematurely from smoking each year in Europe. Smokers account for 30% of all adults in the EU, while in the U.S. they comprise just 20% of the population. We want to bring the EU level down," Mr. Byrne says.

In addition to the draft directive, the commission is also working on a separate initiative aimed at outlawing cigarette vending machines and indirect advertising, as well as forcing tobacco marketers to declare their ad budgets. This will be published later in the year, Mr. Byrne said.

The new tobacco advertising directive is expected to come into force across the 15-nation European Union by the end of 2004, once it has been agreed at EU level and then transposed into the national laws. -- Paul Meller

Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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