Virtually all tobacco advertising will be banned across Europe from Sunday as a new EU directive comes into effect. The new rules outlaw all cigarette ads in the press, on the radio and internet and in international sports events, including motor racing which used to rely heavily on sponsorship from tobacco firms. However, existing bans on TV advertising have already forced many sports to break the habit. Although not all 25 member states have ratified the directive, most of those that have not have introduced similar measures. International studies show cutting advertising does help reduce smoking by 7 per cent. The only things not covered by the directive are cinemas, billboards, and promotional items such as ashtrays and lighters. It is estimated some 650,000 people die of smoking-related illnesses in Europe every year – reducing the number of smokers has long been a priority of the EU’s health commission. But the new directive is already being criticised by some as too soft. French health minister, Jean-Francois Mattei, said there were regrettable “ambiguities” in the text.