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Friday, November 28, 1997 Published at 16:13 GMT

image: [ BBC Despatches ]Emma Udwin

The Belgian parliament has approved a law banning all tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The law, which will take effect from the January 1, 1999, is stricter than expected. Officials from the Belgian Formula One race track said they feared the move might mean the end of the Belgian Grand Prix. Here's our Europe Political correspondent, Emma Udwin:

The new law adopted by the Belgian parliament toughens existing restrictions and goes beyond plans under discussion in the European Union for a ban on tobacco advertising. From 1999, Belgium will ban all ads except at shops selling tobacco goods.

It means an end to roadside billboards and press adverts, and it cuts off the 24 million dollars spent by tobacco companies in sponsorship for Belgian cultural and sports events, such as music festivals and motor racing.

It had been thought that the Belgian Senate might agree amendments to exempt the popular Formula One Grand Prix in Belgium, but these were rejected by a narrow margin.

The news has stunned officials at the Spa Francorchamps race track, where the annual Grand Prix takes place, and some fear next summer's contest will be the last in Belgium.

The member of parliament who proposed the legislation, Louis van Velthoven, said he hoped that Europe would now ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

The European Union is approaching a crucial decision on the issue and is considering a compromise to accommodate Britain's demands for an exemption for Formula One racing.

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