The FIA slams European Commission over tobacco

The FIA World Motor Sport Council voted to send a letter from FIA Max Mosley to European Health Commissioner David Byrne, attacking the Commission's decision to ban tobacco sponsorship from July 31 2005. The FIA drew attention to the fact that the original EU legislation was to have been introduced in October 1, 2006 and that all its negotiations with the World Health Organisation were based on this date. The European authorities have refused to change the date despite efforts by the FIA to achieve this.

"The change of date was gratuitous and irresponsible," Mosley wrote to Byrne. "The 2006 date after all been agreed by aall the EU institutions. There was therefore no need to change it."

Mosley went on to attack the Commission saying that it has "demonstrated a limited understanding of the issues at stake and a quite extraordinary failure to anticipate the consequences."

The Letter drew attention to a letter from the Australian Health Minister Senator Kay Patterson which was sent to European health ministers urging them to change the date. This letter indicated that unless a sufficient number of governments agree to a global ban it will be impossible for the FIA to ban tobacco sponsorship in F1 because it is bound by the Concorde Agreement, which runs until the end of 2007. In other words tobacco advertising in F1 could go on until January 1, 2008. We hear that at least one F1 team has said it will try to take legal action against the FIA if it pushes through the ban in 2006.

"If the majority of countries do not implement a ban on October 1, 2006," Patterson wrote," there is a risk that the governing body will be unable to enforce its rule at least until 2008. The only way to secure an effective worldwide ban is for as many countries as possible to introduce a ban on the same day - namely October 1, 2006, the original European date."

The letter was ignored by the European Health Ministers and by the Commission. The FIA complained that the European Commission has "unlimited resources to test its regulatory competence" and uses public funds to pay for it. Mosley said that the FIA is trying to get a global ban on tobacco sponsorship despite opposition from some of the teams and "would rather devote its scarce resources to promoting road safety and maintaining our legitimate role as sporting regulator".

Mosley concluded that the disruption of F1 in Europe and the subsequent loss of races could lead to the collapse of the planned global ban on tobacco sponsorship for which Commissioner Byrne is "ultimately and entirely responsible".

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