Smoke in your eyes: The struggle over tobacco control in the European Union

Publication Title

Journal of European Public Policy

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Advocacy groups, European Commission, Intergovernmentalism, Moral attitudes, Policy traditions, Tobacco advertising


Throughout the decades, the European Commission has attempted to expand its regulatory authority beyond the mandate specified by the treaties. Between 1986 and 2002, the Commission struggled to expand its reach to public health by targeting tobacco advertising. Preparations for a directive lasted eight years. The European Court of Justice then struck down that directive in 2000. A weaker version was passed in 2002. What can explain such troubled history? In past attempts at expansion, the Commission could rely on advocacy groups to pressure hesitant member states. In this case, the Commission fell into a classic intergovernmental trap: countries took positions that directly reflected the 'fit' between the Commission's proposals and existing domestic approaches to tobacco. Partial success in 2002 came only because of transnational shifts in moral attitudes towards tobacco and the ascendancy of left-leaning political parties in key countries. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of the findings for future Commission initiatives.


Original version is available from the publisher at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1350176042000164307