Tobacco manufacturers have accused the European Union chiefs who are trying for a second time to outlaw tobacco ads and sponsorship of being “hell-bent” on introducing the ban.
Tobacco bosses are again threatening to challenge the proposals in court if they are passed later this year.
The EU’s first directive banning tobacco advertising was annulled by the European Court of Justice last October following legal action from Gallaher, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans. The court found problems with the directive’s legal base, ruling that it restricted trade and competition.
However, the court did not reject the principle of banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship on public health grounds.
The draft directive should be completed by the end of May and could start going through the European parliament in June. Directives typically take two years to implement. UK legislation to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship is going through the House of Lords.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission’s Health and Consumer Protection department says it will work closely with the UK to ensure there is harmony between the directive and UK legislation.
“We felt the court ruling pointed the way forwards. It said ‘This is the way to do it’, rather than ‘Don’t do it’,” she says.
But John Carlisle, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association director of public affairs, says: “The EC seems hell-bent on punishing us. We can never rule out legal challenges. If the EC makes the same mistakes, we wouldn’t hesitate to take a similar attitude.”