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Tobacco problems

EARLY last week Britain's new Health Secretary Frank Dobson confirmed that the Labor government in Britain is preparing a law to ban sports sponsorships by cigarette manufacturers. "We recognize that some sports are heavily dependent on tobacco sponsorship," Dobson said. "We don't want to harm these sports but they must recognize that by helping promote the sales of tobacco they are harming the health of their own spectators."

The Sports Minister Tony Banks told the House of Commons that he did not want to see motor racing suffer because of the benefits in employment and technology which Grand Prix racing produces.

The problem facing legislators is that it is very difficult to stop tobacco being advertised at foreign races which are then shown on British television. The best solution to this appears to be to push for international action to restrict tobacco advertising as much as possible. Labor has said that it will probably help to revive European Union legislation to stop tobacco advertising in all 15 EU member states. The matter is due to be discussed this week when European health ministers meet in Luxembourg.

The threat of a Pan-European tobacco ban has led to some bizarre stories in the British newspapers. Over the weekend The Sunday Times in London reported that there is a contingency plan in F1 to move the majority of races to Asia, leaving only four races in Europe, if a European tobacco ban goes ahead. The story appears to have been leaked to the newspaper in an effort to dissuade the government from pushing ahead with the ban.

The reality is that the tobacco issue is largely irrelevant in F1 as sponsorship can be found to replace tobacco. In addition the sport's reliance on sponsors is weakening as more money flows in from pay-per-view television.

Similar stories suggesting that a ban on tobacco sponsorships could lead to 40,000 job losses in motor sport are also to be treated with circumspection.

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