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European Union Moves Closer To Banning Tobacco Advertising and Gradually Eliminating the

December 4, 1997

European Union Moves Closer To Banning Tobacco Advertising and Gradually Eliminating the Sponsorship of Sports by Cigarette MakersBy ROBERT WIELAARD

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Union on Thursday moved closer to enacting measures that would ban tobacco advertising and gradually eliminate the sponsoring of sports by cigarette makers.

Germany and Austria opposed taking such tough action.

But other members of the 15-nation Union were leaning toward giving cigarette makers close to a decade to abandon funding for major sports and cultural events, notably Formula One racing.

That would satisfy Britain which held out for a maximum nine-year deadline, officials said.

Germany has lobbied hard against the tobacco measure and gained support from Spain, which announced it would abstain from voting. Germany sees tobacco advertising as a health, not trade, issue that individual nations should regulate.

EU spokeswoman Barbara Nolan said Luxembourg, the meeting’s chairman, ``was determined to get an agreement,″ offering an eight-year exemption for tobacco sponsorship of Formula One racing.

The European Commission, the group’s executive agency, has been trying since 1989 to get the governments to crack down on tobacco ads and sponsoring.

Britain initially opposed the effort but the new Labor government has shifted positions.

The draft EU law would outlaw all advertising, except at stores selling tobacco, and ban indirect advertising, such as for apparel bearing the name of cigarette brands.

Tobacco companies would be told to gradually reduce their visibility at ``events and activities organized at world level″ over almost a decade until a full ban takes hold.

Until last month, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government sought a permanent exemption for Formula One arguing 50,000 jobs in Britain were at stake. Then it was revealed the sport had donated one million pounds ($1.7 million) to his Labour Party forcing the government to insist on only a temporary exemption.

Tobacco advertising is already banned in Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and Sweden. Belgium will ban it as of 1999. In some form or other, it is still allowed in the other nations.

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