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Tobacco in America

THE United States National Association of Attorneys General last week released details of the proposed legal settlement between the tobacco industry and the majority of the States in the Union. This revealed the provision that each tobacco company involved would restrict itself to no more than one sponsorship in the United States in any twelve month period. As the deal is a legal settlement rather than legislation, it seems that foreign tobacco brands will be able to continue to operate as normal.

The new deal is much less restrictive than the original agreement reached in June 1997 which banned all sporting sponsorships. This was blocked by Congress. The majority of States are expected to accept the deal although some have said they will hold out. Their power to influence events is undermined, however, as their numbers fall.

Details of the "one brand sponsorship" arrangement will have to be sorted out but we would expect it to mean that RJ Reynolds can continue to back the Winston Cup and associated events (such as the Winston 500), and all its marketing programs and racing teams in NASCAR. It would, however, have to drop drag racing and golf.

Philip Morris could continue to sponsor CART races and teams with its Marlboro brand if it chooses to do so although it is not clear whether CART will include only the FedEx Series or Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic as well. Companies can support other events using their corporate names as long as these are not linked to domestic tobacco brands.

The tobacco deal in the United States is being seen in F1 as a good incentive for the sport to expand its plans to return to America in the future. The last time F1 showed any serious interest in the US - in 1982 and 1983 - there were three different US races at Long Beach, Las Vegas and Detroit and a fourth North American event in Canada.

The possibility that Bernie Ecclestone is planning a similar level of involvement should not be excluded. And when one considers the way in which F1 had been operating in recent years, we would not be surprised to see F1 back at Long Beach after 16 years of CART.

This might help to explain why Long Beach's Chris Pook has been talking to Ecclestone of late. He has suggested that there are projects in San Francisco and Dallas but it may be that these are just a smokescreen for talks about Long Beach, which has been running CART races for the last 16 years.

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