Tobacco companies and the Internet

AS regulators around the world struggle to find ways to stop cigarette advertising evidence is emerging in the United States that forcing tobacco companies away from traditional forms of advertising and sponsorship is only pushing them to explore new areas, specifically the Internet. There are suggestions in the USA that as much as 20% of all tobacco sales will be on the Internet by the year 2010. The North Carolina School of Public Health says that more than half the Internet sites selling tobacco at the moment are located on Indian reservations which under US law are sovereign territory and the companies cannot be touched by anti-tobacco legislation.

The organization said that this would pose a serious threat to effective tobacco control. With motorsport having an enormous potential for "virtual" activities, tobacco advertising in the sport could end up being entirely electronic although early experiments with "virtual advertising" on race tracks have not been successful. However there is a future for "virtual racing". David Richards, who owns the commercial rights to the FIA World Rally Championship, said recently that he is planning to use such technology make rallying more popular.

Richard's team are working on software which will enable TV viewers to "drive" rally stages themselves, using data from the cars to construct a virtual reality. Achieving this in Formula 1 would be much more difficult because of the fact that more cars are involved but it is not impossible that there will one day be virtual events - and it is not clear how the legislators are going to stop tobacco advertising in virtual reality.

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