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JUNE 9, 1997

Britain confirms anti-tobacco plans

AT a meeting of the 15 European Health Ministers in Luxembourg last week, Britain's Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell confirmed that the new government in Britain is to support plans for a European Union ban on tobacco advertising. The Dutch government also joined in calls for a ban, leaving only Germany, Denmark and Greece against the proposals.

The European Commission first proposed a Europe-wide tobacco advertising ban in October 1991 but was unable to get the agreement of the Council of Ministers to push ahead and make it legislation.

A unanimous vote may still be needed to make the proposal law - although health matters usually require only what is called a "qualified majority vote" for which a 71% vote is required to pass new laws. At the moment the proposal is still being blocked by Germany, Denmark and Greece but together they have only 16% of the votes on the Council of Ministers.

Other European Commissions - notably the Farming Directorate - are arguing strongly against a ban as they are worried that it will cause thousands of jobs to be cut and will reduce tax revenues from tobacco products.