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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Should Europe harmonise its tobacco laws?

The European Court of Justice has ruled that a Europe-wide ban on tobacco advertising is illegal.

The European Commission had introduced the ban in an effort to harmonise tobacco legislation across the European Union, where different member states have different laws.

The ruling has dismayed anti-tobacco campaigners, who claim that it will cost thousands of lives. It will take several years before a similar ruling can be enacted across Europe.

But does it matter if different states have different tobacco laws? Is the tobacco legislation in Europe good enough right now? Should it be tighter or less restrictive?


Like most people in the UK, I resent being told how to lead my life

David K, England
I smoke and, although I acknowledge the health and income damage this does to me, I persist because it suits me. I do not threaten anyone else - I do not smoke indoors at home even, let alone at work. Like most people in the UK, I resent being told how to lead my life - especially by lying, corrupt, incompetent and sleazy governments.
David K, England

I couldn't care less about tobacco advertising. But I do care that while the corrupt EU claims it wants to stop people smoking, it also gives 1000 million in subsidies to European tobacco growers. Not that they have money to give, because it's lifted from UK taxpayers every week
Dave Smith, England

Perhaps it would be a good idea to arrest and imprison anyone found in possession of tobacco? The Government seems to believe this approach works well with other drugs.
Brian Milner, UK

I believe that tobacco is viewed differently in each nation and so the local governments should make the rules not the EC

Emma W., USA (ex-UK)
When I started smoking at 12 it was not because of any advertisement it was because I didn't want to look stupid in front of my mates. I don't think the restriction of tobacco advertising will greatly reduce smoking rates. I think that each country needs to make their own decision, it should not be up to the European Commission to decide for everyone. I believe that tobacco is viewed differently in each nation and so the local governments should make the rules not the EC.
Emma W., USA (ex-UK)

Europe should harmonise all its laws - the EU should BUTT OUT and let each individual "sovereign" nation draft legislation that is right for that country. I am sick of having our laws centralised by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.
John B, UK

Tobacco advertising does not cause people to smoke, but rather causes existing smokers to change brands. There therefore seems little point discussing whether we should ban advertising in relation to the number of people who smoke.
If you wish to remove the risk of secondary illness from smoking then you should legislate that all smoking area's are separated from non-smoking area's by double doors, and insist that they have extractor fans with filters. Although I don't smoke I feel that any attempt to ban smoking is against human rights, you can't go banning things just because you don't like them. What about the linked health risks of fatty foods - why not ban them?
Jason Clee, Wales

I am intrigued by the person who says that poverty kills more people than smoking - when are people going to wake up to the fact that smoking is one of the biggest poverty issues? The poorer people are, the more likely that they are going to smoke. Smoking can cost 2 adults 3,000 per year and my building society manager husband has seen people have their home repossessed when quitting smoking would have prevented it. We need to tackle smoking as poverty and inequalities issue, not just a health one.
Mary Anne crook, Scotland

The ban on advertising is just a token measure meant to have no real effect

Ben, Netherlands
The ban on advertising is just a token measure meant to have no real effect. Every time tax on tobacco is increased, it's done in such a way that only a few will quit smoking. A larger increase would hurt the tax revenue. Let's face it, the Government loves the smoker's money more than it hates the cancer that comes with it.
Ben, Netherlands

As an ex-smoker I have great sympathy with those who feel they are unable to give up. Only those who have smoked will appreciate what it is like to have to kick the habit. They are the ONLY people qualified to talk about the effect of smoking on their lives and the consequences for their health. The banning of advertising will have no effect whatsoever in the short to medium term. It might have an effect in the long term as young people of today have less exposure to these adverts. What is important, indeed critical, is to ensure that youngsters are educated as to the dangers of smoking such that they decide that they will not smoke even if it means going against their peer group.
G. B. H., UK

Once again I see the Europeans following in lock step behind the US

Phillip J Hubbell, USA
Once again I see the Europeans following in lock step behind the US. They don't mind taking the tax money from the sale of tobacco, but wanting to posture for political brownie points from an increasingly ignorant public doesn't make it any less hypocritical. If you think tobacco is the great evil of the age...ban it. If you aren't willing to ban it.... sit down and shut up about it and let people be responsible for their own actions.
Phillip J Hubbell, USA

We shouldn't just be banning advertising we should be banning tobacco sales. If it was a newly developed product there is no way it would be allowed, if we'd just discovered how dangerous it is for health the scandal would make BSE seem insignificant. The tabloids would have a field day.
Margot, UK

Poverty kills more people than smoking. Yes smoking is bad for you and it is highly addictive. But we should put it into perspective. Twenty percent of British children are growing up in poverty. The toll on these children's future health and opportunities will far outweigh any harm that will fall upon them if they smoke. Why don't people get upset about real problems that harm society and individuals such as childhood poverty? They rant and rave about moral issues and like to tell every body how they should live. This allows them to feel good about themselves whilst ignoring real harm in society.
Ken Little, Nunhead, London

I think it is pathetic to ban tobacco advertising because everyone knows the consequences of smoking

Chris, England
I think it is pathetic to ban tobacco advertising because everyone knows the consequences of smoking. I also think that every individual has the right to do what they want and with doing so not blaming the tobacco companies for their action as done in the USA. If the government want to do so they are the ones that loose because we will keep on smoking!
Chris, England

Ann Widdecombe insists that anyone smoking pot should get an on the spot fine in the same year a leaked memo proves the tobacco industry deliberately targeted children in their campaigns. Interesting to note the relative numbers of deaths caused by both drugs. Now we can't ban the disgusting tobacco advertising. Something has gone very wrong - or is it money talks!
Merx England, UK

Restrict (smokers) to selected 'cancer spots'

Katie, UK

I don't necessarily think a Europe-wide ban is the best option. What would be better would be restriction on where people can smoke. I commute to work, and smokers seem to think I won't really mind if they stand next to me, light up a cigarette and let the smoke blow into my face. I don't want lung cancer. Restrict them to selected 'cancer spots' in public places that I, and the rest of the thinking population, can avoid.
Katie, UK

The main anti-smoking argument of today is "passive smoking". In other words "How dare you pollute my airspace. I do not smoke - go smoke somewhere else" That is a good anti-smoking-legislation argument, too. This is because advertising promotes smoking. Smoking produces addiction. Addiction produces illness in, both, the smoker and others in the same room. Worse still, it promotes peer-pressures to smoke which, in turn, perpetuates the whole cycle. By the way, can anyone take a cigarette manufacturer seriously when it claims "smoking advertising does not promote smoking"? I wonder if they smoke.
Paul, England

Tobacco companies should have the right to advertise. However as a non-smoker I should have the right to sue smokers who cause my life danger through passive Smokers. I am tired of smokers whingeing about how they weren't told about the dangers of Smoking. They know now but they don't have the common decency to stop killing others. I feel that this should be the real debate about smoking. People can be arrested for being drunk and disorderly why can't smokers be arrested for being foul and dangerous.
Bhupinder Grewal, UK

People seem to forget that most smokers develop their habit during their teenage years, an age where people are very concerned about their image. Tobacco adverts are often aimed at these age groups and are aimed at promoting a certain image, almost nobody starts smoking after 20. So it's not an issue of the state being nanny to adults, it's protecting easily influenced teenagers from developing habits which can rarely be broken in later life.
Michael, Ireland

It is not the ads but the cigarettes that are doing the damage

Chad, Netherlands

It is not the ads but the cigarettes that are doing the damage. Clearly less ads means less new smokers, but politicians are too cowardly (and greedy) to address the real issue of whether smoking should be banned. Ban them or leave them alone to advertise freely as a legal product. Anything in between is hypocrisy. Now, I'm off for a smoke...
Chad, Netherlands

Don't forget tobacco is a LEGAL product to buy and use

Peter, Switzerland

To answer the question 'should Europe harmonise its tobacco laws' rather than just have a rant about smokers, which of course is very popular with non smokers. The answer is NO, why should laws regarding tobacco be harmonised in Europe when laws regarding everything else aren't. Why isn't anyone advocating harmonising the laws on alcohol or gambling or the legal age of consent. Just picking on tobacco is easy because supporters of any proposal that restricts people's freedom to smoke can claim 'I'm doing it for your own health', whereas what they mean is 'I want to meddle in your lives'. Don't forget tobacco is a LEGAL product to buy and use, so each country should have the right to make it's own laws on tobacco the same as it does with everything else.
Peter, Switzerland

With reference to Anupa's comments, I would like to say that it is not just the smokers' lungs that are effected. Did you know the partner of a smoker is 50% more likely to die of many illnesses such as lung and breast cancer. So, no, it is not your right.
Catherine, UK

More people are killed in cars than by smoking so why not ban the adverts for cars? These pompous politicians have nothing better to do than think up stupid ways to stop people enjoying themselves or from earning their company money through advertising! The money gained by the tobacco companies from their advertising gives a lot of pleasure to the non-smokers in the way of sports, like Formula 1. So just forget what they are trying to sell and enjoy life, letting other people enjoy life in their own way.
John C., Warwick, England

Today, most of the youngsters are put into the smoking habit and they are attracted by crazy ads. So banning on tobacco will have the significant impact on new tobacco consumers. This is a good step to reduce the tobacco consumer. It will also help to prevent tobacco related diseases.
Ishwar Raj Pandeya, Nepal

I recently quit smoking so I think that everyone else should now!
John V Moran, USA

People like me (a smoker) are the easy targets

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

For once I'm on the side of the European court! (Makes me sick to think about it.) I think that all these zealous anti-smoking puritanical bigots should look to themselves and solve their own hypocrisy before they take on my liberties! I bet they're driving around in resource depleting and environmentally polluting cars, don't give a hoot about what they throw away in the trash, and pour noxious "cleaning" chemicals all around their house. Oops, I forgot ... they don't have to care about the latter things because it goes from their space to someone else's, where it is lost in the "largeness" of the planet and conveniently forgotten about. Meanwhile, of course, people like me (a smoker) are the easy targets ... personally, I find all their hot air as equally offensive (and I'm terribly allergic to it), not least because of its intellectual vacuousness.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I think that individual states should ban advertising for tobacco products, but I don't think that it is the role for the EU to introduce a universal ban on tobacco advertising; action should be taken at the national, not international level.
Jeff, USA

If I should choose to smoke, or to drink, or anything else that harms my body, why, then, IT'S MY FAULT. It's not the adverts, it's not the companies, it's not my religion or lack thereof, nor my schooling, IT'S MY OWN CHOICE. Trying to stop people from smoking by banning adverts is, really, a quite stupid suggestion offered by people who refuse to face the fact that people will do as they want, no matter the consequences!
Anne Black, USA

If you want to stop smoking, ban it, not its advertisement

Alastair Gunn, UK

Each individual country should, as Mr Ketchum pointed out, be free to its own laws. But countries within Europe are no longer free or separate, but linked in a way that binds their legal system. This legislation highlights for me the huge flaw in European union, it's trying to unify different peoples who can't be unified to the extent of a similar legal system. And if you want to stop smoking, ban it, not its advertisement.
Alastair Gunn, UK

D. Jones should put things in perspective. About 25,00 deaths occur each year in the UK through alcohol abuse - a further 3600 die in road accidents. The total for smoking related deaths is between 125,000 & 140,000. Nocotine is more addictive than heroin. However this in no way reduces the need to stop all cigarette advertising in Europe.
Peter R, UK

Why can't the sanctimonious anti-smoking campaigners simply mind their own business? All adults have the right to choose whether to smoke, or not to smoke. We should reject attempts by the nanny state, or the health-fascists, to tell us what to do with our lives.
David, UK

I agree with you, "Anupa, USA". If you want to smoke your lungs out go ahead. The only thing is: Keep your smoke to yourself and don't smoke out the lungs of my kids and me!
Gary Dale, England

Let each country decide by itself what laws it wants to implement

Chhiba Soma, Britain
I went to Barcelona on holiday last year, and the number of people who smoke, quite publicly, was huge. I'm sure other countries also have different attitudes towards smoking, and it is quite wrong to try and have the same tobacco laws across the whole of the EU. Let each country decide by itself what laws it wants to implement.
Chhiba Soma, Britain

When will governments realise that people want to make up their own minds about how to live their lives? Politicians have no right to make decisions about how I should live my life.
Stephen Duck, UK

As a British person working in Greece, I can see that it is not simply advertising that is to blame for the number of people smoking - there is clearly a lack of education. In some countries, people are not even aware of the basic health risks associated with the activity. The message needs to be drummed into people repeatedly until it sinks in and makes sense. Surely, if people were made fully aware of the facts and taxed to high heaven, then nobody in their right mind would choose to take on such a destructive habit, no matter how much advertising was about.
Catherine, Greece

Over here tobacco is big business so it's not surprising that the Germans have made representations to the European Government about its advertising policy. It appears though that Germany has a problem with its own legislation. There is an age limit below which buying cigarettes etc, is illegal. However cigarette vending machines are in evidence everywhere - even along streets, in people's gardens - where children have unrestricted and unmonitored access.
Harry, Munich, Germany

I would like to see tobacco firms come cleaner about their dealings and the chemicals they add to tobacco

Colin, Netherlands
I think this ruling is a good idea. In England, I know people have to stand outside the office to smoke (even in the rain), and all this strikes me as infringing on their rights. I would like to see tobacco firms come cleaner about their dealings and the chemicals they add to tobacco. As for the advertising, I don't see how a ban will make much of a change, if people on television programmes or just in the street, smoke.
Colin, Netherlands

Stopping tobacco advertising is not going to prevent people from smoking, especially young people. They are subject to peer pressure which in itself does far more than any advertisement ever could.
Nikki, UK

Ban tobacco and fine any users 100 on the spot.
John B, UK

I have no problem with tobacco adverts. In fact, they'd be better targeted at young teenagers. Nobody (of any age) cannot claim to know the dangers of smoking. Therefore, it's a nice earner for the Government and helps to keep my tax bill down.
Vernon Bigg, UK

I personally do not believe it is the right of any government - national or European - to outlaw the advertising of a product whose use is legal in all European countries. If people want to smoke, let them. On the other hand, if they go down with lung-cancer, they should be expected to pay their own medical costs. It's called individual responsibility, something which we need a bit more of, and less nannying by governments.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

Tobacco adverts that portray a positive image of smoking should be banned. I include the Marlboro adverts in this definition. In other European countries (such as Germany) smoking is portrayed as a modern lifestyle (West, for example). The models are all attractive and the message is quite clear, "smoking is cool". Adverts that don't portray such images are safe enough as they sell nothing but brands and do nothing to promote smoking. Unless of course people are turned on to smoking with a picture of a sheet of silk. You are? Go see a shrink.
Roy Chapman, UK

When drivers stop polluting my air, I will give up smoking and stop polluting theirs.
Peter Purdie, UK

By the tobacco companies logic, banning tobacco advertising should save live

The tobacco companies obviously have found that advertising increases their sales and hence the number of smokers, that is why they campaigned to have the band reversed! Therefore, by the tobacco companies logic, banning tobacco advertising should save lives. But then I would say that, I'm a non-smoker who's irritated when forced to breathe the air polluted by this anti-social habit.

Mr Ketchum - do you think that health policy should be dictated by the interest of promoting diversity rather than good health? I think it quite silly to propose that diversity has any place in this debate.
Charles Sviokla, Washington DC

That it should be perfectly legal to buy, sell and consume a particular product, but a criminal offence to advertise it, was always ludicrous and indefensible.
Give the power of choice back to the consumer, or at least give it back to the governments that consumers elect.
Henry Case, UK

Why is it that no one takes responsibility for their own action anymore? I feel that the tobacco companies have been made out to be such villains by the 'let us save you life' anti-tobacco lobby. If I want to smoke my lungs out it's my right to do so. I know the problems that arise with smoking. NO more legislation on tobacco ad's please.
Anupa, USA

How many lives are destroyed by alcohol? How many lives are destroyed by cars?

D. Jones, Europe
I read with interest that a BA pilot was working while clearly drunk. How many lives are destroyed by alcohol? How many lives are destroyed by cars? Yet we see adverts for beer all the time and the mindless booze culture is even promoted by 14 pints Hague. Banning tobacco ads really is missing the point. People need information about the dangers and then they can choose to drink/ smoke themselves to death as they choose.
D. Jones, Europe

If you do not know what smoking does to you where have you been for the last twenty odd years. Banning tobacco ads will achieve nothing, it will not make anybody give up nor prevent anybody from starting. We need to get away from this nanny state that we are getting into, everybody knows that smoking does all sorts of things to your body that are not good, but it is their choice.
Mike S, UK

What happened to the idea of diversity? Why must every person and nation look and act the same?
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

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05 Oct 00 | Health
European tobacco ban overturned
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