The Commission puts the boot in

The European Commission has confirmed that it is now taking legal action against Italy, Hungary, Spain and the Czech Republic over violations of the European Union ban on tobacco sponsorship. The Commission is taking Italy to the European Court of Justice for failing to correctly transpose the sponsorship ban for cross-border events into domestic law. At the same time it is threatening similar proceedings for the three other countries for failing to implement the 2003 European directive which was due to be adopted in national legislation by the end of July 2005. The Italians have upset the Commission by allowing tobacco sponsorship in events which take place exclusively in Italy, even when they are broadcast in other countries. The Commission is also challenging Spain's three-year ban exemption for sporting events and Hungary's exemption given to events that it deems to be of "exceptional" importance to its economy. The Czech Republic is in trouble for allowing a three-year extension to allow for the end of current contracts.

European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou says that the Commission has "zero tolerance for allowing tobacco sponsorship, no matter whether it is for Formula 1 or for other events" and said that he will not hesitate "in holding EU member states accountable when the ban is not properly, or not at all, implemented."

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