The latest smoking battles

EVERYONE now seems to agree that tobacco money is going to leave Formula 1 on October 1, 2006. The FIA has proposed a worldwide ban on all tobacco sponsorship in motorsport at that time and has joined the World Health Organisation's "Tobacco Free Sports" campaign and is supporting the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Unfortunately, a number of governments and the European Union are working on a different plans will outlaw all tobacco sponsorship before then. The European Union is aiming for July 31, 2005.

There is a big difference between the two dates if you are a Formula 1 team with tobacco sponsorship as it will mean effectively two years of budget disappearing and in the case of Scuderia Ferrari that could mean a loss of revenue in the region of $100m.

The European Union's ban on tobacco advertising in all EU countries was thrown out in October 1998 by the European Court of Justice after Germany challenged the ban on its legality. The European politicians have since adopted a revised draft directive and this is now going through the necessary legislative processes ever since, most recently in a series of hearings at the European Parliament. The FIA has responded by asking the EU to modify the date to the end of 2006.

Max Mosley has pointed out to the European Commissioner for Health David Byrne, was the original date planned for in the annulled 1998 legislation. Mosley has also pointed out that the tobacco advertising ban makes no sense when contrasted to the EU policy of supporting tobacco farmers.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA will be successful but it is hard to argue against the federation's logic. But logic has little to do with European politics. Opposition to the directive comes not only from the FIA (if only over the date) but also from European publishing houses which will lose considerable advertising revenues as a result of the legislation and, given the current economic conditions, there are worries that some publications might even go out of business.

This has upset some of those who earn their money from such publications and the journalist Auberon Waugh, writing in the Daily Telegraph recently, made a number of interesting in this respect.

"The EU health commissioner David Byrne," he wrote, "who emerges as a leading anti-smoking fanatic, has vowed to bring forward new measures to protect young children and young people from the pernicious effects of reading tobacco advertisements. One may doubt whether young children and young people spend much time reading advertisements in any case. There is little enough evidence that they read anything."

"And," he added, "I have never met anyone who claimed to have been made ill by reading a tobacco advertisement."

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