Consumer law/free movement of goods: Tobacco advertising ban

United Kingdom

The European Parliament voted, on 13 May, in favour of the Council's common position, without amendments, on the proposed Directive on the approximation of Member States' laws, regulations, and administrative provisions on advertising for tobacco products. If the Council now adopts the text in the same form, the Member States will be obliged to transpose the Directive into national law within three years.

The Directive requires Member States to ban billboard, radio and most other forms of tobacco advertising within three years. However, Member States may postpone application of the Directive by one year for the print media and by two years for sponsorship involving cigarettes in general. Under certain conditions, sponsorship of events or activities organised at world level, such as Formula One motor racing, will be tolerated for an additional five years, until October 2006 at the latest. The Directive does not apply to advertising or display of tobacco products or indications of prices at sales points, nor to communications intended exclusively for the trade, nor to the sale of publications published and printed in third countries, unless they are meant principally for the Community market. The Member States are free to adopt their own legislation in these areas.

Opponents of the ban are threatening to challenge the Directive in the European Court on the grounds that it has no foundation in Community law. The legal basis originally proposed for the Directive was Article 100a of the EU Treaty, which provides for the harmoni-sation of legislation on the Internal Market. The Council added Articles 57(2) (on the activities of self-employed people) and 66 (on freedom to provide services) in its common position. The Committee on Legal Affairs has voiced its opposition to the use of Article 100a as the Treaty basis for the ban, claiming that the Article cannot be used to hinder the free movement of goods which it is intended to encourage, or to impose health measures on the Member States.