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Brussels, 12 October 2006

Commission takes action against Member States breaking the tobacco sponsorship ban

The European Commission today decided to pursue infringement procedures against those Member States that violate the EU tobacco advertising ban. It decided to refer Italy to the European Court of Justice for failure to correctly transpose the sponsorship ban for cross-border events. In addition, it decided to send "reasoned opinions" to the Czech Republic and Spain, and an "additional reasoned opinion" to Hungary for failing to correctly transpose the sponsorship ban into national law. These countries already received a “letter of formal notice” in April 2006. They now have two months to comply; otherwise the Commission may resort to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

“These decisions underline that the Commission has zero tolerance for allowing tobacco sponsorship, no matter whether it’s for Formula One or for other events” said European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. “Tobacco advertising and sponsorship can glamorise smoking and encourage young people to take up the habit. The Tobacco Advertising Directive is key in preventing this from happening, and, as I have done in the past, I shall not hesitate in holding EU Member States accountable when the ban is not properly – or not at all – implemented.”

The Tobacco Advertising Directive

The Tobacco Advertising Directive 2003/33/EC bans tobacco advertising in printed media, on radio and over the internet. It also prohibits tobacco sponsorship of cross-border events or activities. It applies only to advertising and sponsorship with a cross-border dimension. The Directive does not allow any exemptions as regards the entry into force of measures or the prohibitions on advertising and sponsorship that it lays down. The Tobacco Advertising Directive was agreed by the European Parliament and Council in 2003 and had to be transposed into national legislation by 31 July 2005. By this date, Member States had to adopt national transposition measures and communicate them to the Commission.


The Italian law to ban tobacco sponsorship does not apply to events which take place exclusively on the Italian territory. However, such an event may have cross-border effects, e.g. when it is transmitted to other countries. The Italian Government has failed to reply to the reasoned opinion it has received on 25 July 2006 for the failure to comply with Article 5(1) of Directive 2003/33/EC. As a result the European Commission decided to refer Italy to the European Court of Justice.

The Czech Republic

As regards tobacco advertising and sponsorship, Czech law sets a transitional period of three years for contracts concluded before its entry into force. This goes beyond the legal date by which the Directive was due for transposition, i.e. 31 July 2005. The reasoned opinion concerns Articles 3(1) and 5(1) of Directive 2003/33/EC, which refer to tobacco advertising and to the sponsorship ban.


Hungarian law provides for an exemption for events of “exceptional” importance for the national economy that were first organised before 1st January 1990 and for which the contract was signed before 1st May 2004. The Commission considers that Hungary infringes Article 5 of the Directive 2003/33/EC. A reasoned opinion was already sent in July 2006. This additional reasoned opinion represents the Commission feedback to the reply that was recently received from the Hungarian Government.


Spanish law sets a three-year exemption period for introducing the sponsorship ban for sportive events. A letter of formal notice was sent on 10 April 2006 addressing this issue. Considering that the issues of economic and financial nature put forward by the Spanish authorities to justify this derogation are insufficient, the Commission has decided to send Spain a reasoned opinion.

The pending cases on the failure to communicate transposition measures

So far, 24 Member States have communicated their transposition measures for the Directive to the Commission. The European Commission recently referred Germany to the European Court of Justice for failing to communicate transposition measures (Case C- 351/06). Luxembourg has recently informed the Commission about its legislation aimed at transposing the Directive. Therefore, the Commission decided to close the case against Luxembourg for the failure to notify the transposition measures to the Commission. The United Kingdom has now notified all implementing measures. However, for Gibraltar it has still to decide the date of entry into force of the adopted legislation.

For further information, please see IP/06/107, IP/05/1013 and MEMO/05/274, and visit:

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