MEPs urged ‘don’t bow to Tobacco’s dirty tricks’ on advertising



Tuesday 12 May 1998

ASH/ Press releases/

 

102 Clifton Street,London EC2A 4HW Tel: (020) 7739 5902 Fax: (020) 7613 0531

Press briefing: immediate use12 May 1998 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

 

MEPs urged “don’t bow to tobacco industry dirty tricks” on tobaccoadvertising

With the majority of MEPs now right behind the Directive which will lead to apan-European ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, ASH is optimistic, butwill not be celebrating until the ink is dry on the published Directive. MEPs will todaydebate the Directive, and tomorrow will vote on whether to pass the proposals or submitthem to a complicated Conciliation Process. The tobacco industry is mounting a furiousfinal assault and ASH is calling upon those who are still undecided not let the tobaccoindustry’s self-interested legal arguments stand in the way of progress. If, on theother hand MEPs pass the Directive as it currently stands, and reject all the wreckingamendments, then the Directive could become law at the next Council of Ministers meetingunder the UK presidency (ie. before the end of June)

Heavy lobbying from the tobacco industry and members states opposed to the proposalshas been directed at MEPs from the European People’s Party (the conservativepolitical grouping). The industry is pushing legal amendments to the Directive (changingits legal base from Article 100a to Article 129), which would neuter the measure ifadopted, but more likely would trigger the Conciliation process would lead to completefailure.

“They are spraying MEPs with dubious legal advice, briefings and all manner ofpropaganda to try to stop the Directive. As the tobacco lobbyists prowl the corridors inStrasbourg, we hope MEPs will give them a wide berth. They represent a predatory industrypromoting death, disease and addiction, and most MEPs are determined to stop them “said Clive Bates, Director of ASH.

The tobacco industry has been making great play of the decision of the Legal AffairsCommittee to oppose the Directive as the basis of its campaign. The industry has been lessquick to point out that the findings of the Legal Affairs Committee run counter to advicefrom the professional legal services of the Parliament and the European Commission and noobjections from the legal service of the Council of Ministers. The opinion of the LegalAffairs Committee was subsequently rejected by the Environment Committee – which has takenthe lead on the Directive. To help counter this, ASH is urging the 20 UK MEPs stillundecided about which way to vote them to join with their colleagues and the UK governmentto make sure the directive is passed during the UK’s presidency of the EU.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said: “For ten years these proposals have beendebated, discussed and thoroughly examined – but in the end they were always sat on. Theworld is ready to put a stop to the promotion of the single most deadly and addictiveconsumer product ever created. Compared to the harm caused, banning advertising is a mildand long overdue measure”.

 

Notes to Editors:

  1. On 12 and 13 May 1998 the EU directive on tobacco advertising will debated and voted on in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The directive is supported by a majority of EU member states, with only Germany and Austria remaining hard-line opponents to the measures. Other countries which have introduced a ban on tobacco advertising have seen cigarette consumption drop by between 4 and 9 per cent. ASH estimates that a ban could save around 4000 lives in the UK alone. The moves in the EU are expected to be eagerly watched by European countries waiting to join the European Union such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, all important new markets for the tobacco industry.
  2. ASH is anticipating that the industry will object to the proposals on a number of fronts, including the legal basis of the directive, potential job losses, and freedom of speech. Germany and Austria are the most prominent EU members opposed to the directive. Austria takes over from the UK as president of the EU for the six months from the end of June 1998, with the German presidency following. Should the directive face any challenges as a result of the Parliament’s debate, the two nations may use their presidencies to delay implementation of the directive for a further year at least – or scupper it entirely.
  3. ASH sent a briefing to all UK MEPs which draws from previously secret tobacco company documents released as part of a lawsuit by the US state of Minnesota to recover the costs of treating smoking-related disease. This briefing shows, using the industry’s own words, how advertising, sponsorship and promotion were central mechanisms in the recruitment of new smokers. Copies are available from ASH Press Office on (020) 7739 5902.
  4. Further briefing material are attached.

 

ENDS

 

Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902
Pauline Doyle, Press Officer (020) 7739 5902 or 0171 249 2363 (hm)

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