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OCTOBER 30, 2002

Byrne sticks his foot in his mouth

European politicians have a habit of sticking their noses into places where the intervention is not welcome and comments made by the European Union Health Commissioner David Byrne from Ireland about the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix have not gone down well in motor racing circles.

Byrne decided to spout forth on the decision of the F1 teams to drop the race from the F1 calendar because of Belgium's ban on tobacco advertising.

"What kind of signal is this to racing fans?" Byrne said. "Is the tainted money of big tobacco more important to the Formula 1 machine than the spirit of the sport? This example of an unjustified sanction against Belgium because of its pioneering health protection initiative clearly shows that we need one single approach."

Byrne did not mention anything about the EU's policy of pouring billions of dollars of European taxpayer's money into funding tobacco farmers despite the fact that the European Union is supposed to be opposed to the tobacco industry. Nor, for that matter, did he mention the fact that the tobacco produced is of such inferior quality that it is dumped into the Eastern European markets. Nor did he draw anyone's attention to the reports which indicate that there is widespread abuse of the tobacco subsidies, specifically by organized crime in Italy.

And, come to think of it, he did not mention that all the European governments gain massive income from taxes they levy on tobacco products and do not wish to ban tobacco products because they are too important in balancing the budgets.