EU nations approve tobacco advertising ban starting in 2005
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union voted Monday to outlaw tobacco ads in newspapers and magazines, on the Internet and at international sports events in the 15-nation bloc starting in 2005.
The new restrictions were approved by 13 of the 15 EU nations, enough to push through the bill which was drawn up by the EU's executive Commission after a court ruling struck down an earlier ban.
The rules have already been approved by the EU parliament on a 311 to 202 vote.
"We have taken a huge step forward towards a strong common policy protecting the public from the promotion of tobacco products," said Danish health minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who chaired the meeting.
Germany opposed the measure, because it wanted fewer restrictions on advertising in the written press. Britain also opposed the proposal, saying the new rules did not go far enough.
The EU Commission said the regulations would withstand further challenges in the EU's high court.
Most measures will become law in 2005 while a ban on sponsorship of major international sporting events like Formula One auto racing will take effect a year later.
Formula One organizers had already agreed voluntarily to phase out tobacco advertising in 2006.
Currently, tobacco companies are already banned from advertising and sponsoring programs on television in the European Union.
Under the new rules, the companies will also be barred from the free distribution of tobacco products as a promotion.
It still allows tobacco companies to advertise in cinemas, on billboards, posters or through indirect ads, such as on clothing, something which the previous proposed rules had also sought to ban.
The earlier ban ran into trouble when Germany opposed the move and the European Court of Justice agreed that the restrictions were a public health law, requiring unanimous support among all 15 EU governments.