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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Votes to Stub Out Tobacco Advertising

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- 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 that was drawn up by the European Commission after a court ruling struck down an earlier ban.

"We have taken a huge step forward toward a strong common policy protecting the public from the promotion of tobacco products," said Danish Health Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who chaired a meeting of EU health and consumer affairs ministers.

Germany opposed the measure, because it wanted fewer restrictions on advertising in the written press. Berlin is considering a challenge before the European Court of Justice.

Two years ago, Germany successfully overturned an earlier tobacco advertising package with a challenge at the EU's high court.

Britain also opposed, saying the new rules did not go far enough.

The EU says that more than half a million Europeans die of tobacco-related diseases each year and claims advertising plays a crucial role in tobacco smoking.

"We need to deal with the huge epidemic we have," Irish Health Minister Brian Lenihan said.

The commission said it was convinced the new regulations would stand up against any further challenges in the EU's high court. Nations have 50 days to decide whether to appeal.

Most measures will become law in 2005, while a ban on sponsorship of major international sporting events like Formula One auto racing will come into effect a year later.

Formula One organizers had already agreed to voluntarily phase out tobacco advertising by 2006.

The rules have already been approved by the EU parliament with a 311-202 vote.

The rules will also streamline divergent national legislation. In some member states, most of the provisions of EU package are already being applied.

Currently, tobacco companies are already banned from advertising and sponsoring programs on television across the EU.

Under the new rules, the companies will also be barred from the free distribution of tobacco products as a promotion.

They still allow 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.

Germany managed to defeat the previous restrictions at court by arguing they were a public health law, requiring unanimous support among all 15 EU governments.