The World Health Organization (WHO) today called for a concerted
response following the annulment of the European Union Directive banning tobacco
advertising and sponsorship. The invalidation of this tobacco control legislation is of
Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General, strongly recommended
several actions that European Union Member States could undertake to counter this
reversal. She also said it was essential that WHO Member States include a tobacco
advertising ban in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Dr Brundtland indicated that the annulment of the Directive on
technical and legal groundsand not on public health groundscreated new
opportunities for concerted action in three ways. "WHO strongly recommends European
Union Member States strengthen their tobacco control legislation, urges them to redraft a
tobacco advertising ban in accordance with the European Court's indications and calls
on all countries to ensure that a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship is central to
the FCTC-related protocols," she said.
Germany challenged the 1998 European Union Directive on tobacco
advertising and sponsorship in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The Directive, null and void as of today, stated in Article 3 that
"all forms of advertising and sponsorship shall be banned by the Community." It
entered into force on 30 July 1998. Under the Directive, European Member States were to
bring into force laws necessary to comply with the tobacco advertising ban not later than
30 July 2001, but had the possibility to delay implementation for two more years. In
exceptional cases, certain types of tobacco company sponsorship of events organized at the
world level were permitted until 1 October 2006. Member States were free to enact laws
stricter than the Directive in order to protect the health of individuals.
"Tobacco addiction is a communicated diseasecommunicated
through advertising, sports, marketing and sponsorship. Tobacco advertising bans protect
people, especially the young. Lured in large numbers by the glare and glamour of tobacco
marketing that sells a deadly product as the taste of freedom and fashion, between 80,000
and 99,000 children and adolescents in the world take to tobacco every day," said Dr
The tobacco industry has consistently fought tobacco advertising bans,
claiming that people smoke out of free choice. "A recent WHO survey shows that one in
five 13-15 year olds in developing countries gets addicted to tobacco. We know that the
tobacco industry has been manipulating its products to ensure that addiction occurs
rapidly and is maintained. This is not free choice," declared Dr Brundtland.
The European Court's ruling comes just days before WHO's 191 Member
States begin negotiating global rules on tobacco control. For a week beginning October 16,
Member States will begin WHO's first treaty negotiations on the FCTC. Global tobacco
advertising bans are one of the issues on the table for FCTC negotiators and many
countries around the world have expressed their desire to hasten the drafting of global
rules on tobacco advertising.
Dr Brundtland urged WHO Member States to remain focused on the public
health impact of delays in negotiating global rules for tobacco control. "More than
ever now, we need quick and decisive action by countries. Delays mean more deaths,"
Dr Brundtland said. The FCTC will be ready for signature no later than 2003.
Tobacco currently kills four million people per year. Unchecked, it
will kill 10 million people annually by 2030. Over 70% of those deaths will occur in the
developing world. Fortunately, these deaths can be brought down by policy interventions
such as tobacco advertising and sponsorship bans, increased tobacco taxes and steps to
eliminate smuggling of tobacco products.