Three agencies challenge DoH over EU tobacco directive

Three advertising agencies have criticised the European Union’s (EU) proposed ban on tobacco advertising, with one questioning the Department of Health’s (DoH) competence to handle the directive in the UK.

Soup, Lowe Lintas and Mustoe Merriman Levy, all of which work for tobacco companies, argue in written submissions to the DoH that the directive is a health – rather than trade – measure and as such does not fall under the remit of the EU.

Soup chairman Nicholas Balmforth questions the DoH’s involvement, arguing that it has “neither the inclination nor the knowledge” to examine the directive on what he describes as “spurious” trade grounds.

The news follows the European Parliament’s questioning of the directive in November on the same grounds (MW November 29). The last directive banning tobacco ads across Europe was annulled by the European Court of Justice because its legal basis was flawed.

Of the 54 written responses to the DoH consultation paper on the directive, 32 supported the directive, eight opposed it, while 14 had no firm view. No ad agencies wrote to support the directive.

The DoH estimates that UK tobacco companies spend £130m a year on tobacco ads and promotions. Of this, £50m is spent on press and poster ads, £70m on Formula One, £8m on sports sponsorship and £7m on direct marketing.

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