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Tuesday, 12 May, 1998, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Stubbing out the tobacco ads
tobacco crash helmet
Looking for new sponsors - eventually
A ban on tobacco advertising throughout the European Union is set to be approved by the European Parliament.

Under the proposal, virtually all advertising and sponsorship by tobacco companies would be phased out over the next eight years.

Anti-smoking organisations are delighted that the ban finally looks likely to be made law when MEPs vote on the controversial issue.

The cigarette companies insist poster campaigns and sponsorship do not encourage new smokers.

But Clive Bates, the director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "Advertising spend is linked to consumption."

Tobacco companies' advertising budgets include magazine adverts and sports sponsorship.

But Mr Bates said: "Learning to do without tobacco revenue is something governments and sporting bodies will have to do in the end."

In Strasbourg only a handful of MEPs are fighting the ban, but on freedom of speech grounds - not in defence of smoking.

But it is highly unlikely they will overturn the deal that will outlaw virtually all tobacco advertising by 2006.

Ian Burkes, spokesman for cigarette firm Gallaher, said: "It will be disappointing if the European Parliament does confirm the ban.

"We acknowledge it is reasonable for governments to have policies to address smoking and we're happy to work with them on that basis but a total ban on advertising is too much."

MEPs are being asked to approve a deal struck between European governments last December.

Under the Tobacco Advertising Directive, billboard campaigns and cinema commercials will be outlawed in three years. A year later the rules will be extended to newspapers and magazines.

Storm over exemption

The ban will cover the sponsorship of sporting and cultural events in five years. Formula One is currently excluded and has eight years to find alternative backers.

The exemption was granted after the British Government, which receives 10bn a year from tobacco taxes, raised fears that lucrative Grand Prix races would be lost to the Far East if revenue was banned too quickly.

The deal created a storm after it became known that the Formula One chief, Bernie Ecclestone, had donated 1m to the governing Labour Party.

By 2006, the only tobacco advertising still allowed will be in specialist trade publications and inside tobacconists' shops.

BBC News
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh reports from Strasbourg: "MEP's decision is binding" (0'39")
BBC News
Clive Bates: "Ban will cause fall in consumption" (1'17")
BBC News
Ian Burkes: "Ads don't produce smokers" (1'03")
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