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Brussels, 4 April 2006

Tobacco advertising: European Commission takes action against four non-compliant Member States

The European Commission today demonstrated that it is maintaining its strong line on tobacco advertising, by sending “letters of formal notice” to Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary and Spain for non-compliance with the Tobacco Advertising Directive 2003/33/EC. The infringements relate mainly to exemptions from the sponsorship ban which these four Member States have allowed when transposing the Tobacco Advertising Directive into national law. The Member States have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice and must bring their legislation into conformity with the Directive. Otherwise, the Commission will continue with the next steps in the infringement procedure .

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said “The Tobacco Advertising Directive is one of the cornerstones in our fight against tobacco and I urge Member States to apply it properly. Stopping the glamorisation of tobacco through advertising and sponsorship is a key aspect in reducing the number of people who smoke or start to smoke. Previous action taken by the Commission against other Member States in relation to this Directive demonstrates that I will not hesitate in taking steps to ensure that it is fully and properly applied.”

The Tobacco Advertising Directive

The Tobacco Advertising Directive 2003/33/EC bans tobacco advertising in the print 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. Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or using merchandising (e.g. ash trays or parasols) therefore falls outside its scope, although these can still be banned under national law – a path chosen by several EU Member States. Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s, and is governed by the TV Without Frontiers Directive. The Directive does not allow any exemptions as regards to the entry into force of measures or the prohibitions on advertising and sponsorship that it lays down.

The Commission urges full conformity

The Tobacco Advertising Directive was agreed by the European Parliament and Council in 2003 and had to be transposed into national legislation by 31July 2005. By this date, Member States had to adopt national transposition measures and communicate them to the Commission.

In October 2005, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to 12 Member States for failing to communicate their transposition measures. Following this, all Member States except Germany and Luxembourg have now provided the relevant information to the Commission.

During the process of checking the details of the laws communicated by the Member States, the Commission has, up to this point, noted particular compliance problems with the sponsorship ban.

  • Spain has a transitional provision whereby the ban on advertising and sponsorship in motor racing events does not apply until 3 years after the entry into force of the Spanish law.
  • Italy does not apply the sponsorship ban to events that take place exclusively on the territory of Italy. However, according to the Directive, the sponsorship ban must apply to all events with cross-border effects (for example events transmitted to other Member States by television or internet).
  • Hungary allows an exemption from the ban on tobacco advertising under special circumstances which related to economically important events for Hungary.
  • The Czech Republic grants a general 3 year derogation for contracts signed before the legislation came into effect.

The Commission is also continuing infringement procedures against Germany and Luxembourg for failing to communicate the national measures taken to implement the Tobacco Advertising Directive.

Next steps

The Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary and Spain now have 2 months to reply to the letter of formal notice, and to bring their legislation into line with the Tobacco Advertising Directive. If they fail to do so, the Commission will embark on the second stage of the infringement procedure (“reasoned opinion”), and if the non-compliance continues, it can refer the Member States to the European Court of Justice.
For further information, please see IP/05/1013 and MEMO/05/274, and visit:

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