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Big tobacco fights back

LAST week was a significant one in the fight over tobacco legislation in Europe. The European Union's controversial ban on tobacco advertising, which was adopted in July 1998, aimed to phase out all tobacco advertising by 2006. The legislation was challenged by the German government in the European Court of Justice and in hearings last week European Court of Justice Advocate General Nial Fennelly told the court that the law was created using the wrong legal basis as it was not a measure to strengthen the European single market but rather a health issue and health issues are the responsibility of the individual countries and so requires a different legal basis. The judges follow the advice of the Advocate General in the vast majority of cases. A ruling from the court is expected in the autumn.

But tobacco companies are aware that defeating the law in Europe could do more harm than good as individual countries would probably be able to get new legislation through quickly and so bring in a ban earlier than is planned in Europe. The British government has pledged to do just that but the action is currently blocked by the British courts pending the outcome of the case before the European Court.

Formula 1 is reducing its dependence on tobacco money because of the intensifying campaign to stop tobacco advertising. The World Health Organization recently launched a global campaign against the tobacco industry with the aim of creating a worldwide ban on tobacco advertising. In recent days Brazil has sent a bill to Congress proposing a ban on all tobacco advertising and sports sponsorship and the South African government is also making similar noises.

The European Parliament last week agreed to new regulations which will be introduced in January 2003 which will force tobacco firms to cover almost half of a packet of cigarettes with health warnings.

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