Hit the Breaks

Truth in advertising


European regulators have adopted limits on junk food advertising directed at children, on alcohol advertising directed at everyone, and on tobacco advertising and promotion, including a requirement that each box of cigarettes carry a warning label covering 30 percent of the package. Now a British member of the European Parliament, Chris Davies, wants carmakers to affix cigarette-style warning labels to their ads.

The proposed warnings, noting the environmental hazards posed by carbon emissions, would occupy 20 percent of the space in all print advertisements for cars. "The rationale is to try to get carmakers to compete on environmental information about their cars," Davies said. Such competition already happens, although the E.U. legislation, if enacted, would make it compulsory.

In October the European Parliament approved Davies' proposal in a nonbinding vote, setting the stage for further action. The auto industry has attempted to compromise with E.U. regulators, suggesting a voluntary set of advertising guidelines that would address environmental concerns. A spokesman for the parliament dismissed such a plan, saying it had "no confidence in the likely effectiveness" of voluntary agreements.