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EU takes Italy to court over ban on tobacco ads, warns Hungary

„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,” European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said in a statement from Brussels yesterday. EU governments had to outlaw tobacco advertising in print media, on the radio and the Internet by July 31, 2005. The commission, the bloc's executive arm, has already taken Germany to the European Court of Justice for failing to ban such ads. The EU has been trying to prohibit tobacco advertising since 1998. The law forbids all cigarette ads aimed at an international audience, including sports sponsorship.

Four countries permit illegal exceptions to the ban, the commission said. Italy is being sued because it failed to reply to a previous final warning from the commission while the other three governments replied. Italy doesn't apply the ban to events that take place exclusively on its territory, even if they have cross-border elements. Spain has postponed the ban on motor sport sponsorship for three years. Hungary allows for exceptions for „economically important” events, and the Czech Republic doesn't apply its ban to events for which contracts were signed in the past three years. Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary have two months to comply or face a possible commission case at the European Court of Justice. (Bloomberg)