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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health

Building capacity for a tobacco-free world

July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 3:50 PM

Tobacco advertising policy in the European Union

Fiona Godfrey, European Respiratory Society, 39-41, rue d'Arlon, Brussels, BE-1000, Belgium


The European Union has been an active legislator in the field of tobacco advertising. Almost all of its advertising provisions have been challenged by the tobacco industry, using a variety of arguments, including freedom of speech protection. The object of this presentation is to present the arguments used by the tobacco industry and its allies and to assess the extent to which they have obstructed EU tobacco advertising restrictions. The likely success of freedom of speech and other arguments in trying to block implementation of FCTC provisions on advertising will also be looked at.


The most important EU court cases, as well as key cases on commercial freedom of speech from the European Court of Human Rights will be reviewed and presented.


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) annulled the first EU directive on tobacco advertising. A second attempt to regulate advertising is again being challenged in the ECJ. Freedom of speech arguments were used by the tobacco industry and its allies but the 1998 directive was annulled on EU-specific grounds of ultra vires and not because the Court considered the plaintiffs to have commercial freedom of speech rights that had been breached by the EU legislation.