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The FIA and tobacco

THE FIA World Council spent some time last week discussing what the organization's attitude towards tobacco sponsorship should be. It approved the decision to ban all forms of tobacco sponsorship by October 1, 2006 in line with the agreement reached with the European Commission but added that a worldwide ban could come sooner if there is convincing evidence showing that F1 sponsorship encourages people to smoke.

The FIA set a deadline of July 1, 1999 for evidence to be submitted to the FIA - a good way of adding six months to the process.

This evidence will be handed over to an independent judge (or judges) who will consider the evidence - which is likely to be a lengthy process. They will decide whether the FIA should ban tobacco sponsorship. That decision is still dependent on a decision by the FIA World Council - and then by the FIA General Assembly - which means several more months. The earliest one could expect a worldwide ban on tobacco advertising in F1 would be for the 2002 season.

It is worth noting that the British government last week issued a proposal - called a White Paper - entitled "Smoking Kills" in which Health Secretary Frank Dobson outlined plans to ban all tobacco sponsorship in Britain by the year 2003.

The White Paper concluded that Grand Prix racing is "different in structure to other global sports" and as a result taking action against it would be ineffective since F1 races "would still have been shown in the UK". The White Paper notes that the F1 industry is worth a lot of money to Britain, describing the sport as "a national asset".

The government did, however, draw attention to the fact that the FIA has agreed to act to eliminate tobacco sponsorship if presented with evidence of a direct link between tobacco sponsorship and smoking.

"We look forward to the outcome of that process," said the White Paper, "and would welcome the complete elimination of tobacco sponsorship from F1 events anywhere in the world".

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