Why the EU is pushing for a tobacco ban in 2005

The European Parliament's vote in favour of new pan-European anti-tobacco regulations could have a dramatic effect on the number of Formula 1 races in the European Union as the International Automobile Federation (FIA) continues to try to champion its policy of a global ban on all tobacco advertising from 2006. The new European legislation could, in theory at least, come into force by the middle of 2005.

European Health Commissioner David Byrne says that he is pleased that the European Parliament "kept a clear head despite all the smoke in the air. A lot was at stake. Parliament had a rare opportunity to show the citizens its true colours on health and the proposed directive on tobacco advertising strikes the right balance between the need to comply with internal market rules and the need to take as a base a high level of public health protection."

The last attempt at a European ban on tobacco sponsorship failed in the European Courts of Justice in October 2000 when it became clear that the directive exceeded the limits of what the EU could do using its internal market powers. The argument is that tobacco advertising is not a health issue but rather a question of whether or not the rules in force are fair. Each European country currently has different rules in relation to tobacco and Byrne's argument is that this gives rise to increasing barriers to the free movement between member states of products and services that serve as support for such advertising and sponsorship. The new directive aims to eliminate these barriers by harmonising the rules relating to the advertising of tobacco products and related sponsorship.

Some argue that this argument is tenuous and that individual countries have control over their own health policies.

The FIA's view is that the federation is in agreement with everything the EU is trying to achieve but would prefer that the timetable fits in with the plans it has formulated with the World Health Organisation.

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