Tobacco Ad Ban Proposed

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

The proposal for a ban on tobacco advertising across Europe gets little support from most marketers. Few would go so far as to suggest it is actually illegal, however. Yet this may well be the ground for a challenge to the new directive. As DIRECT went to press, the European parliament was due to vote on legislation prepared by its environment committee.

This would outlaw tobacco advertising and sponsorship in all 15 countries in the European Union. Direct marketing is likely to be included as each member state interprets the directive, because this is seen as being in the spirit of the law, even though DM is not explicitly mentioned. A majority within the parliament is expected to support the proposal.

Yet the legal committee has already stated that the legislation may be illegal because it breaks the Maastricht Treaty, which brought the single European market into existence in the first place. As a result of domestic pressure from anti-smoking groups, however, the parliament may feel obliged to pass a law that it knows will not stand for very long.

As a consequence, other manufacturing sectors may have to watch out. “Our great fear is the domino effect,” says Alastair Tempest, director general of FEDMA, the Brussels-based association that represents Europe’s DM groups. “Once tobacco has gone, they may turn to alcohol, then specific food forms that are thought to be bad for you.”

The suggestion is not fanciful. France already prohibits alcohol ads, while Greece bans TV commercials for children’s toys. Tempest notes, “We know there are people within the European Commission [who have been] working for some time on looking to ban alcohol ads.”

But if such proposals reveal once again just how much interference in its citizens’ lives the European Commission is willing to consider, for the first time there are signs that marketing does have a future. The EC has long recognized that the information superhighway is more likely to create a single market than any of its own initiatives.

“What interests me is that, at a meeting recently with a very senior member of the EC, he drew a very careful distinction between a Web site set up by the manufacturer of certain substances, and advertising,” says Tempest.

Yet again, it looks as if DM will offer not just the most effective channel to market, but possibly even the only legal one.

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