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Tobacco advertising ban in Europe
  1. STEPHEN G SPIRO, Past President, ERS
  1. Department of Thoracic Medicine
  2. The Middlesex Hospital
  3. University College London Hospitals
  4. London W1N 8AA, UK

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    An editorial on the tobacco epidemic1 is always timely. The proposed ban on tobacco advertising which was approved and recommended to the European Parliament on 4 December 1997 had much to do with lobbying by the respiratory medicine community and, I believe, a stroke of good fortune.

    During my term as President of the European Respiratory Society we attempted to raise the serious issue of smoking in Europe and, at the Annual Congress in Berlin, more than 3500 delegates signed a petition asking the European Parliament to vote in favour of a tobacco advertising ban throughout Europe that December. I had planned to take the petition to Brussels prior to the vote, but was advised by Commissioner Padraig Flynn not to bother as an Englishman would not be popular in view of the fracas over the sponsorship exemption proposed for Formula One racing. In the event, Professor Charis Roussos, the current President, went on my behalf.

    On 4 December 1997 Spain, who initially stated that they were to vote for the ban, decided to abstain, which would have caused the vote to fail unless there was another change in favour of the ban. There followed a period of some hours of discussion between Professor Roussos and the Greek Minister of Health. The latter dramatically agreed to change the voting intention of his country; he voted for the ban and the vote was won.

    These events—a petition from respiratory practitioners and getting the “wrong” but totally appropriate ERS representative to Brussels—is a result of many attempts at lobbying politicians for their support, and we should all take some satisfaction from these efforts. In the UK we may achieve both an advertising and a sponsorship ban—more than we had hoped for.

    There is still an enormous way to go as the recommendation now has to go to the European Parliament. It is likely they will wish to amend the recommendation in some way or another which will mean a period of at least three months of conciliation. It is absolutely vital that we all lobby MEPs as vigorously as possible so that, when the time comes, the minimum number of votes required to get the Bill through (316) are secured.

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