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Tobacco in Europe - the fight goes on

ALTHOUGH the Council of European Health Ministers voted in December last year to ban all forms of tobacco advertising across Europe by 2006, the proposed legislation still has a long way to go before it becomes law. Last week the anti-tobacco campaigners suffered a serious setback when two European Parliament committees in Strasbourg ruled that the European Union does not have the legal right to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

The Legal Affairs Committee - which is made up of members of the European Parliament - voted 12 to 7 against the ban, declaring it to be illegal. Tobacco lobbyists immediately asked that the legislation be withdrawn.

The committee concluded that the Commission had used the single European market as a reason to introduce the legislation but was not treating all media on an equal basis. We understand that the opposition to the bill came from German Euro-MPs who are against the ban.

The European Commission argues that this is a technicality which will not stop the legislation being voted through when it comes before the European Parliament in May. Even if the European Parliament vote is successful the findings of the Legal Affairs Committee will be significant if there is legal action after the law is voted through - which is virtually certain to be the case.

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