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The impact of tobacco legislation on F1

THE Formula 1 world does not appear to be greatly worried about losing its tobacco sponsorship. Since the European Parliament voted in favor of a European tobacco ban in May 1998, the F1 teams have been expecting to lose all cigarette money by October 1, 2006.

The European directive was challenged by various tobacco companies and governments and last week the European Court of Justice decided that it should be annulled because it was not legally sound. The European Health Commissioner David Byrne is now looking at ways to salvage parts of the directive to introduce limited bans over which the commission does have jurisdiction. The court ruled that the ban could not go ahead on the grounds of health as it was beyond the EU's power. Certain areas of the legislation could go ahead as they are designed to further the single market.

The FIA has already said that if the World Health Organization can organize a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control it will ban all tobacco advertising in motor sport from the end of 2006. The first steps towards that came today in Geneva where a series of public hearings were held as part of the preparations for intergovernmental negotiations which the WHO hopes will eventually lead to an international anti-tobacco treaty. It would be the first international treaty based on health.

The WHO received over 500 written submissions for the hearings, and there will be 176 speakers at the hearings, which are being presided over by six representatives of the organization. Much will depend on how many countries agree to sign an anti-tobacco treaty and that will depend on what is included in the agreement. Some countries want strict advertising bans, anti-smuggling legislation and heavy taxation but others want a less specific agreement which will be easier to achieve.

Whatever the case, an international treaty is not the work of a moment and many countries will have to balance the importance of their tobacco industries against their desire to reduce smoking.

An increasing number of countries around the world have passed anti-tobacco legislation and there comes a point at which Formula 1 teams will no longer wish to be associated with the cigarette industry. Other big sponsors are being kept out of F1 because they do not wish to associated with tobacco sponsorship and these corporations will eventually be used to replace the tobacco companies.

In the last couple of years several teams have turned their back on tobacco money, notably Williams. Prost has just ended his relationship with Gauloises and is unlikely to sign up a new tobacco sponsor while Renault is not expected to continue with Mild Seven when it takes over the Benetton team at the end of next year.

McLaren's budget is not dominated by tobacco as once it was with West having only a limited amount of space on the cars. Ferrari is rather more dependent on Marlboro while Jordan has reduced the space being used by Benson & Hedges. The team which relies most on tobacco is British American Racing and there are clear signs that Honda is aiming to buy the team before 2006.

It is quite likely that by the time tobacco advertising is finally banned around the world, everyone will have forgotten the extent to which Formula 1 once relied on cigarette money...

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