BRUSSELS -- The European Union announced a revamped initiative to ban tobacco advertising in newspapers, magazines and the Internet and prevent tobacco-company sponsorship of events or activities.
EU Health Commissioner David Byrne, mindful of an earlier rejection, said Wednesday that the new proposals would harmonize current regulations limiting tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the EU's 15 member states, and use the rationale of preventing internal market distortions to apply the proposed bans.
Citing strong support from EU member states and the European Parliament, Mr. Byrne said he expects the proposed measures to be implemented in the region by 2004.
Mr. Byrne is trying to get the rules approved as an internal trade measure, which requires the backing of only a simple majority of EU nations.
The new proposals come just seven months after the European Court of Justice overturned the EU's previous attempt to ban tobacco advertising. Germany, which helped mount the legal challenge, is again expected to pose stiff opposition.
The European Court at the time said the sole effect of the advertising ban was to impede trade in goods and services and so wasn't in the interests of a single market. It added that the issue at stake wasn't trade but public health, in which the European Commission has no competence.
Mr. Byrne said the new proposal takes full account of the judgment of the court and is now legally and scientifically sound.
He said the proposal aims to ensure coherency and equal treatment in the different media across the EU. Tobacco advertising on television in the EU has been banned since 1989.
Mr. Byrne also said it was the view of the commission that tobacco subsidies [in the EU] be phased out.
EU lawmakers recently approved a package outlining strict measures to cut toxic ingredients in cigarettes and to impose more stringent labeling rules on tobacco product manufacturers.
Over half a million people in the EU die from tobacco-related diseases every year.
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