Germany Gives in Over EU Tobacco Advertising Ban
Bowing to pressure coming from the European Court of Justice regarding the EU tobacco advertising directive, Germany is planning to introduce its own bill that would outlaw the advertising of tobacco products.
German lawmakers will soon submit to parliament a bill on banning tobacco advertising, Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday.
"Protecting non-smokers is very important to me. We will promptly submit a bill to the Bundestag with the aim of bringing the country in line with EU recommendations on tobacco advertising," he said in a statement.
The announcement came after an advocate general at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recommended that ECJ judges throw out a German challenge to a European Union law banning tobacco advertising in print media, on radio and over the Internet.
The advocate general to the EU's highest court said that the legal basis of the law was "appropriate for putting an end to the divergent development of national rules in this field."
Although advocate generals' opinions are not legally binding, the court's judges follow their recommendation in eight out of 10 cases.
A stubborn refusal
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Party whistles instead of cigarettes: an EU anti-smoking television add
The EU tobacco advertising directive, which must be applied in all 25 EU member states, came into effect in August 2005, but Germany has refused to implement it. In addition to banning tobacco advertising in print, radio and the Internet, the directive also bans tobacco sponsorship of cross-border cultural and sporting events.
But advertising in cinemas and on billboards or using merchandising falls outside its scope, as does tobacco sponsorship at events which are purely local, with participants coming from only one member state.
Berlin brought its legal challenge to the EU advertising ban back in 2003, contesting its legal basis and demanding a partial annulment.
A matter of principle
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer wants to protect non-smokers
Seehofer pointed out that the challenge had been brought by the German government which left power late last year. But he said the current government did not plan to withdraw this challenge to the EU tobacco advertising ban, despite plans to introduce a ban of its own.
He said the case against the EU law was motivated more by concern over the rights of EU member states to maintain sovereignty over certain areas of law than by any strong objection to banning tobacco advertising.
"This lawsuit was never about blocking the protection of non-smokers," Seehofer said, "but rather about the question of areas of competency between the EU and its member states."
Potential economic downsides
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Advertising tobacco products is an important source of income for German newspapers and magazines
Some German economists are concerned about the cigarette advertising ban because of the effect it would have on more than 40,000 kiosks, gas stations and tobacco stores in the country. Publishers of newspapers and magazines as well as the advertising industry could expect losses of up to 118 million euros ($149 million) once the ban becomes legally binding in Germany.
Representatives of the tobacco industry were also disappointed by the new signals coming from Berlin.
"Advertising a legal product should be allowed," said Richard Gretler, a spokesperson for Reemtsma, one of the biggest cigarette and tobacco producers in Europe.